Some miners were injured in explosions or electrocuted. Others fell off ladders, slipped on rocks, inhaled silica dust or suffered mercury, lead or arsenic poisoning. Many became ill from drinking dirty water and living too close to it. Inhalation of dust or coal dust is one of the most common concerns of miners.
To protect workers from noise, mining companies must assess working conditions and noise exposure through risk assessments. Exposure can be avoided and reduced by applying engineering controls at the noise source or along the noise path to reduce exposures, such as vibration dampers or absorptive panels. Regular maintenance of machinery is also essential to reduce noise. The employer must ensure the proper use of personal hearing protection among employees exposed to noise, while providing the necessary health and safety training and keeping health surveillance records up to date.
Whole-body vibration (WBV) is a slow-forming physical hazard that occurs in mining workers and other occupations working with heavy machinery. The most effective way to reduce UV exposure is to use a combination of protective methods, such as rearranging work to avoid daytime UV peaks, providing natural or artificial shade, providing appropriate protective clothing and applying sunscreens. As resources in some areas become scarce or depleted, companies are forced to expand the boundaries of exploration. Depending on what is mined, this has the potential to be more expensive than traditional mining and could leave companies more dependent on rental power solutions.
Miners are regularly exposed to harmful airborne pollutants such as silica dust and other minerals. This exposes them to an increased risk of developing respiratory diseases such as pneumoconiosis, also known as black lung, and silicosis over a long period of time. Pneumoconiosis is a group of lung diseases that can cause disability, impairment and even death. There is currently no treatment that can cure these diseases, so prevention is crucial.
The best form of prevention is to reduce the risk of miners encountering hazardous air in the first place through exposure assessments and constant monitoring. There are regulations that prevent miners from working below an acceptable level of coal dust and these must be respected. Air sampling instruments are used to check for elevated levels of mineral dust and the results decide whether control technologies should be applied in the highest risk areas. The global commodity boom in the early 2000s was mainly driven by the rapid expansion of the Chinese economy.
However, as the Chinese economy gradually moves away from resource-intensive manufacturing, there has been a slowdown in demand growth and a consequent fall in commodity prices and mining profits. Rising demand for metals and minerals during the first decade of the century encouraged massive capital investment to boost production volumes. A significant proportion of the projects initiated during the boom years did not reach production capacity until after prices collapsed. Changing market conditions and weak demand growth have led to a sharp decline in profits in the mining industry.
There was also an indication of significant administrative underestimation of fatalities, with miners working in gold-only mines having a higher mortality rate than those working in platinum-only mines; both groups had a much higher mortality rate than miners in coal-only mines.