String of coal mine deaths following US government shutdown

For the first time in a decade, the US coal mining industry has seen three workplace deaths in three days.

The United Mine Workers (UMW) union says the government shutdown on October 1 may have had some impact on safety regulation.

Following the shutdown, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) sent home more than half its 2,355 person workforce in charge of enforcing safety rules.

"It is extremely troubling that within a week after the federal government shutdown caused the normal system of mine safety inspection and enforcement to come to a halt, three miners are dead," the UMW International President Cecil E. Roberts wrote in a statement on Tuesday.

"The government's watchdog isn't watching."

Union representatives told the Charleston Gazette that their safety officers will increase inspection efforts, but unions are concerned about non-unionised mines.

The MSHA says it will prioritize inspections at mines with a history of safety problems.

Under Federal law, MSHA must complete four inspections per year at every underground coal mine and two at every surface mine, the Gazette writes.

The three miners perished in West Virginia, Illinois and Wyoming.

According to Wyoming Public Media, MSHA had compelted a safety inspection of the Wyoming mine in September and had found nine violations.