Miner Airlifted ‘As Precautionary Measure’ Following Accident at Revenue Silver Mine

09/03/14 | By | 231 More

OURAY COUNTY – A worker who was injured at the Revenue Silver Mine last Friday is “bumped and bruised” but otherwise okay, according to Mike Romaniuk, Vice President of Operations and Chief Operating Office of the mine’s new operator, Fortune Minerals.

“At this stage the accident is not reportable to MSHA [the Mine, Safety and Health Administration],” Romaniuk said, “but we are completing an internal investigation about what happened and why, and following up to make sure a similar incident doesn’t happen again.” 

According to a preliminary account from the Ouray County Sheriff’s Office, the worker was engaged in blasting activity deep inside the mine, when part of a rock slab hit him in the back of the neck. 

Romaniuk did not confirm this account, nor did he share any details about the accident, stressing that the investigation is still underway. “We honestly don’t know the root cause,” he said.

Ouray County EMS and the Ouray Mountain Rescue Team responded to the accident, but OMRT’s services were ultimately not needed. The patient was transported via CareFlight from the mine, situated in the mountains high above Ouray, to Montrose Memorial Hospital. 

“It was a precautionary measure,” Romaniuk said of the medevac. “We take all incidents seriously and wanted to make sure he received the best available care.” 

MSHA’s last visit to the Revenue Silver Mine, conducted over the summer, resulted in one order and five citations being issued to the mine operator, which according to MSHA’s website is still listed as Star Mine Operations. (The sale of the mine to Fortune Minerals of Canada, pending since last May, is currently set to close in October, at which time Fortune said it can apply for a license to become the new operator of record.) 

All of the violations were characterized as “significant and substantial.” The most serious of these was an order pertaining to the examination of ground conditions, issued on July 21. The order cites an MSHA regulation requiring that “Appropriate supervisors or other designated persons shall examine and, where applicable, test ground conditions in areas where work is to be performed, prior to work commencing, after blasting, and as ground conditions warrant during the work shift.”

Romaniuk described the order and citations as “the normal course of business.” 

“It’s one of those things where you’d love to be at zero,” he said. “We will address the issues and hopefully the next quarter we will have less.” 

Romaniuk said his company appreciates MSHA’s “independent eyes, helping us make sure we are as safe as possible.” 

According to a recent release from MSHA, the Revenue Mine was one of 18 mines in the nation (including 15 coal mines and three metal/nonmetal mines) subject to a special impact inspection in July that resulted in the recent round of orders and citations. 

These special impact monthly inspections involve mines “that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns,” the release stated, and began in force in April 2010 following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine, a coal mine in West Virginia, that killed 29 of 31 underground workers. 

As of press time, MSHA has still not released its final report on the contributing factors and root cause of the accident at the Revenue that killed 33-year-old powderman trainee Nicholas Cappanno and his shift supervisor, 59-year-old mining veteran Rick Williams on Nov. 17, 2013, when they encountered lethal levels of deadly CO gas a mile and a half inside the mine.

The preponderance of the 50-plus orders and citations that MSHA issued to Star Mine Operations in the wake of that double fatality have not yet been assessed, but records show that MSHA has proposed a $51,900 penalty for one order issued in January, having to do with examination of work places, both surface and underground. The cited MSHA regulation mandates that “a competent person designated by the operator shall examine each working place at least once each shift for conditions which may adversely affect safety or health” and that “the operator shall promptly initiate appropriate action to correct such conditions.”

According to the MSHA website, Star Mine Operations has not yet paid the fine.

swright@watchnewspapers.com or Tweet @iamsamwright

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