10 Things You Didn't Know About Mining Law

West Virginia's coal mine disaster has renewed questions about mine safety.


1 The earliest mining legislation dates back to 1891, when Congress established minimum ventilation requirements at underground coal mines and prohibited the employment of children under 12 years of age.

2 In 1907, 362 miners were killed in a coal mine explosion in Monongah, W.Va., in the worst mining accident in United States history. More than 3,000 miners died in the United States in 1907, the deadliest year on record.

3 In 1910, Congress established the Bureau of Mines in the Department of Interior. The agency was charged with examining mining methods and looking at safer practices to prevent accidents.

4 The agency lacked the authority to inspect or supervise mines or set federal safety and health standards.

5 In 1952, Congress passed the Federal Coal Mine Safety Act, which established annual inspections of underground coal mines and set mandatory safety standards.

6 The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 set more stringent standards for the industry and required that inspections of underground coal mines occur on a quarterly basis.

7 The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 established the Mine Safety and Health Administration in the Department of Labor.

8 The agency has jurisdiction over roughly 2,100 coal mines and 12,500 metal and nonmetal mines.

9 Since 1996, there have been 478 reported coal mining fatalities, more than half of which took place in Kentucky and West Virginia.

10 Overall, 1,000 lives have been lost in mining (including coal, metal, and other kinds of mining) incidents since 1996.