A miner died Tuesday evening while working at Gateway Eagle Mine in Boone County.
Rodney Osborne, of Artie, was operating a continuous miner shortly before his death at about 8:50 p.m., according to a news release from the Department of Commerce.
The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training confirmed the fatality. An investigation is underway, the release states.
The mine, currently controlled by Rockwell Mining LLC, had yet to continue operations Wednesday afternoon. The company is based in Lexington, Kentucky.
Osborne, 32, became the eighth coal miner to die on the job in 2017 in the U.S., and the fifth to do so in West Virginia. Three fatalities occurred statewide in all of 2016, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Two miners have died in Kentucky this year. Another miner died in Montana last month.
Tuesday’s death puts nationwide coal mining fatalities so far in 2017 even with all of 2016, which totaled eight deaths.
In a past guest column, longtime mine safety advocate Davitt McAteer said the number of coal mining deaths hit an all-time low of 16 in 2014.
He said Wednesday the decline in deaths is partly due to safety improvements, although the modern machinery can sometimes lead to rushed production.
The number of fatalities is also affected by workforce numbers, he said. Fewer people are vulnerable because fewer people are working in mines.
“If, for example, you close down every mine in the country, you wouldn’t have any fatalities, but that’s not the answer,” he said.
McAteer said the solution is to rely on time-tested techniques and procedures that are readily available to the industry.
“We can do this. We know how to do it properly, we know how to do it safely — it’s just doing it,” he said.
U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito released statements that urged West Virginians to pray for Osborne and his family.
Gov. Jim Justice’s office issued a statement in which the governor said he and his wife are heartbroken over the loss of another coal miner.
“We ask all West Virginians to join us in praying for the family and friends of this young man,” the statement said. “Our state is so grateful for our miners and their families and we know they are coming together in support during this difficult time.”