The death toll from the April 2010 coal mining accident at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Comfort, West Virginia, was 29, making it the deadliest explosion in 25 years. Its origin is unknown. Authorities dug ventilation holes and bulldozed a path to the mining site. Due to the risk posed by toxic levels of methane and carbon dioxide, rescue crews were forced to call off efforts to save four remaining miners.
Families remained optimistic that the four miners would be discovered alive, as the airtight mines are outfitted with four days’ worth of food and water. A number of breathing devices were also missing from storage, fueling speculation that the miners had them.
The accident raised concerns about mining safety precautions. According to CNN, the mine was cited with 50 “unwarrantable failures” in 2009, the most serious infractions imposed by the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Mining is regarded as one of the most dangerous, and thus expensive, jobs in the United States. Dangerous jobs increase the likelihood of on-the-job injuries and fatalities, resulting in higher healthcare costs and life insurance premiums, highlighting the need for stricter regulations.
This table from the National Mining Association contains statistics on coal mining fatalities.