Mining accidents have occurred since the early days of mining. There were a total of 525 mining disasters (incidents with five or more fatalities) in both coal and metal/nonmetal mines from 1900 through 2007 in the United States , resulting in 12,823 fatalities. Most of these disasters involve mine rescue teams, which are specially trained to perform search and rescue operations in extremely hostile environments.
Robots have a great potential to assist in these underground operations, searching ahead of rescue teams and reporting conditions that may be hazardous to the teams. When explosive conditions exist or when heavy smoke or unstable ground conditions prevent team members from entering a mine, robots can become an invaluable tool.