Curtis Tate Published

1st W.Va. Miner Is Killed On The Job This Year In Wyoming County

A yellow miner's hat is placed on top of pieces of coal, with mining tools and an orange safety jacket.Mine Safety and Health Administration

A coal miner was killed on the job in Wyoming County Thursday morning.

Virgil Paynter, of Lynco, was fatally injured while operating an excavator at the CM Energy Operations surface mine, Gov. Jim Justice said Thursday.

Paynter is the first coal miner to die on the job in West Virginia this year. Only one other mine fatality this year was recorded by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, in Pennsylvania.

According to MSHA, the lowest number of fatalities on record in coal mines – five – occurred in 2020. A decline in coal production related to the COVID-19 pandemic was a likely factor.

Eleven coal miners were killed in 2021 and 2022 as production rebounded. Nine were killed in 2023.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. coal production year to date is down 19.3 percent from 2023.

Mine safety has improved, but the number of miners has also declined, according to MSHA data.

A century ago, miners died by the thousands every year. As recently as the 1960s, hundreds died every year. The last time more than 100 miners perished in any given year was 1984, when the industry employed more than 200,000. Employment has fallen under 100,000 every year since 2015.