updated 10/30/2006 6:37:47 PM ET 2006-10-30T23:37:47

The U.S. coal mining industry, already reeling from 43 deaths in 2006 — the highest toll in more than a decade — still faces the most dangerous time of the year.

Federal statistics show most coal mine explosions occur during winter. Cold, dry air makes it more difficult to control methane gas and coal dust, the key sources of most coal mine explosions.

This year's deadliest accident occurred Jan. 2, when 12 men died as the result of a methane explosion at the Sago Mine in Upshur County.

The latest fatal accident occurred Monday, when an unidentified miner was killed and another seriously injured at an underground mine in southern West Virginia. The death raised the number of mine-related deaths this year in West Virginia to 22.

And it pushed the national toll to the highest level since 1995, when 47 miners died, according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The victims of the latest accident were preparing to work on a shuttle car on a slope about 7 a.m. when the vehicle, which is used to transport coal underground, moved, said Caryn Gresham, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training.

The miner who was killed was crushed between the shuttle and the mine's wall, Gresham said. The other miner, a mechanic, suffered shoulder and chest injuries, including suspected broken ribs. He was flown by helicopter to a Charleston hospital, where his condition was not known.

State and federal investigators were called to the scene at Bluestone Coal's Double Bonus No. 65 Mine on Pinnacle Creek in southern West Virginia's Wyoming County.

A representative of Bluestone, which Securities and Exchange Commission records show is owned by James C. Justice Industries Inc., did not immediately return a phone call.

Representatives of the UMW also went to the mine, but Phil Smith, a spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America,  said the union had no details of the accident. The UMW represents workers at the mine, which employs 71 people, according to MSHA.

The Double Bonus Mine, which opened June 23, 2004, is a relatively small operation. MSHA records show it has produced 193,397 tons thus far in 2006. Last year the mine produced 542,993 tons.

The mine has been cited for 152 state violations and there have been two injuries that caused miners to miss time at work. Both occurred in 2004.

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