By Timothy Cama
January 2, 2018 - Workplace deaths in the coal mining industry increased last year to their highest point in three years.
A total of 15 miners died on the job in 2017, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) data show, compared with eight in 2016.
That year saw the fewest mining deaths since records began.
The 15th death occurred early Friday morning at a Revelation Energy mine in Fayette County in southern West Virginia, West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported.
Thurman Watts died when a piece of machinery he was operating traveled over a wall.
West Virginia saw the bulk of the 2017 miner deaths, with eight.
The Senate last month approved David Zatezalo, a former coal mining executive, to lead MSHA, the main agency responsible for coal mine safety.
Zatezalo faced numerous questions about his own safety record throughout the confirmation process. He was previously head of Rhino Resources when MSHA took multiple enforcement actions against the company.
Zatezalo sought to assure senators that he would take strong enforcement actions when necessary.