A mining death

Didn’t seem to be a lot in the Idaho press about a mining death from last April. A federal Mine Safety and Health Administration inquiry into it wrapped up this week. Here’s some of what it had to say.

On April 15, 2011, Larry Marek, miner, age 53, was killed while watering down a muck pile in a stope. A rock fall approximately 90 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 30 feet high struck him.

The accident occurred because management did not have policies and procedures that provided for the safe mining of split stopes in a multi-vein deposit. Management failed to design, install, and maintain a support system to control the ground in places where miners worked and traveled. Additionally, management failed to ensure that appropriate supervisors or other designated persons examined or tested the ground conditions where the fall occurred.

The Lucky Friday Mine, a multi-level, underground silver mine, owned and operated by Hecla Limited, is located in the Coeur d’Alene mining district approximately one mile east of Mullan, Shoshone County, Idaho. The principal operating officials are Phil Baker, CEO; John Jordan, Vice-President; and Scott Hogamier, Safety Coordinator. The mine normally operates two 12-hour shifts per day, six days a week. Total employment is 270 persons.

Silver, lead, and zinc bearing ore is drilled and blasted in open stopes. Broken material is transported from the stopes with diesel powered load-haul-dump units and underground haulage trucks to ore chutes, and then hoisted to the surface for crushing and beneficiation. Concentrates are sold to an off-site smelter for final processing.

The last regular inspection at this mine was completed on March 3, 2011. …

The accident occurred because management did not have policies and procedures that provided for the safe mining of split stapes in a multi-vein deposit. Management failed to design, install, and maintain a support system to control the ground in places where miners worked and traveled. Additionally, management failed to ensure that appropriate supervisors or other designated persons examined or tested the ground conditions where the fall occurred.

Worth remembering the next time you hear about job-killing regulation. Sometimes the lack of regulation can be killing, period.

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