The Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has issued a fatality alert to the mining community profiling the causes and circumstances surrounding the 71 fatal accidents that occurred last year.

Forty-eight of those deaths occurred in coal mines. Twenty-three were at metal and nonmetal operations, and nearly half of those victims were contractors. Excluding the 29 miners who died at the Upper Big Branch, West Virginia, mine in April, more than half of the remaining 42 deaths involved violations of basic MSHA standards known as the Rules to Live By.

MSHA has posted information online identifying causes of the 2010 mining fatalities. The site also offers prevention best practices, completed fatality reports, and posters for mine operators to print and display at their facilities.

Fatalities are not inevitable, says MSHA. They can be prevented using effective safety and health management programs, workplace examinations for hazards, and effective training.

Among the chief causes of death in last year's fatalities were powered haulage accidents, working in close proximity to mining or haulage equipment, and crushed-by or struck-by accidents.