The first fatality happened at the Lower Eagle mine in Cyclone, West Virginia, on January 4 when 53-year-old foreman/fireboss Peter D. Sprouse, who had 34 years of mining experience, was fatally injured when he came in contact with a moving underground belt conveyor, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Sprouse was preparing to change out a hold-up roller when he was caught by the moving belt and pulled into the roller. The Lower Eagle mine is operated by Greenbriar Minerals, which is owned by Coronado Coal.

On January 16 at the No. 4 West mine in Dilliner, Pennsylvania, 31-year-old miner Jeremy R. Neice, who had 12 years of mining experience, was killed when falling material pinned him to the mine floor, MSHA said. Neice had only been working at that mine for a little more than two weeks, according to MSHA. The No. 4 West mine is owned by Dana Mining Co. Pennsylvania. Its parent company is GenPower Holdings.

The third fatality occurred on January 19 at the Dotiki mine in Clay, Kentucky, when 36-year-old Nathan G. Phillips was killed after he became pinned between a continuous mining machine and a coal rib. Phillips had five years of mining experience. Webster County Coal owns the Dotiki mine and its parent company is Alliance Resource Partners.

This is the highest number of coal accidents that have occurred in the same time period since January 2006, said Joseph Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. These tragedies also come after the safest year in mining history in 2015, with a total of 28 deaths compared to 45 in 2014.

“All miners deserve to work their shifts and return home at the end of the day, safe and healthy,” Main said. “To that end, the MSHA plans to ramp up its targeted enforcement, education and outreach efforts to respond to the troubling number of mining fatalities that have occurred so far this year. Today, MSHA widely disseminated to industry stakeholders an alert on these deaths, emphasizing the need for continued vigilance in miner safety and health.”