RENO, Nev. — Federal mine safety officials have cited an Idaho-based company for inadequate safety controls at a gold mine it operates in northeast Nevada where a worker from Utah was killed in an underground collapse in October.
The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration released its final report Monday on the Oct. 25 fatality at Small Mine Development's Lee Smith Mine near Elko.
"The accident occurred because mine management policies, procedures and controls were inadequate to ensure the establishment and maintenance of safe ground conditions where persons work or travel," the agency said.
"Management engaged in aggravated conduct constituting more than ordinary negligence in that they failed to implement an adequate quality control process," it said.
Jason Holman, 42, of Goshen, Utah County, was loading explosives into drill holes to blast away rocks to access ore when the collapse occurred, burying him in an estimated 67 tons of cemented rock fill designed to reinforce the underground tunnels about 50 miles north of Elko.
Holman had more than eight years of mining experience. Investigators concluded he had been trained properly.
The cause of the accident centered on the handling of the rock fill, which is made of aggregate and slurry. Ideally, it remains on the surface for 30 minutes between mixing and delivery, MSHA said. Investigators found the operator had stockpiled the material on the surface for up to two hours before loading it into trucks for delivery underground.
"(Cemented rock fill) should always be laid in position soon after mixing to avoid setting and stiffening," the report said.
Underground bulldozer operators are supposed to report any deficiencies in the fill, but MSHA found inconsistencies in how inferior material was handled when reported.
"Mine management has revised policies, procedures and controls for producing the CRF and provided training on the policies, procedures, and controls for the employees," the agency said.
The Elko Daily Free Press first reported the agency's findings on Tuesday.
Small Mine Development General Manager Keith Jones in Battle Mountain did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press. He told the newspaper MSHA failed to incorporate some of the company's responses into the final report.1 comment on this story
"We take exception with the root cause analysis and their conclusions," Jones said. "The procedures at Smith at the time of the incident were very much industry standard."
"Testing of cylinders in the area had indicated acceptable strengths. We have installed about 2.6 million tons of (cemented rock fill) at this particular mine without incident."
Small Mine Development operates the mine for the Toronto-based Jerritt Canyon Gold.
Jones said the mine received the accident citation within the past couple of weeks. He said it usually takes about six weeks after the citation is issued for a penalty to be assessed.