Mining is still one of the most dangerous industries in the world. According to the International Labour Organization, while mining employs around one per cent of the global labour force, it generates eight per cent of fatal accidents. As bad as it seems, there has been an enormous improvement. Safety in mining is now an obsession.
Safety has become a key target for the mining industry in developed countries, and standards are rising around the world. Some countries have a long way to go. China, for example, accounts for 40 per cent of global coal output, but 80 per cent of the world’s mining deaths. The artisanal and small mining sector, which may have as many as 50 million people working in it, is largely unregulated and undocumented. The number of deaths and injuries in the sector are unknown.
What is known at the global level is that health and safety progress in the mining sector has been astonishing. The deadliest year in U.S. coal mining history, for example, was 1907, when an estimated 3,242 deaths occurred. The number fell to 19 in 2002. China is claiming an 80 per cent reduction in deaths in its coal industry.