(AP) — The U.S. coal industry is close to setting a record low for on-the-job deaths in coal mines.
There were 11 deaths in coal mines nationwide for the year by late December, putting the industry, which is mired in a period of layoffs and idled operations, on track to best the record low of 16 set in 2014.
Pennsylvania is leading the nation with three deaths, the most in that state since 2008. If the numbers hold it would be the first time since 2009 that West Virginia did not record the nation's most coal mine fatalities.
So far, West Virginia has had just two mining deaths, tied with Kentucky and Illinois, which had the most recent on Dec. 8. An equipment crash underground at the MC #1 mine in southern Illinois killed 20-year-old Tyler Rath, who had been mining for two years.