OURAY – An investigative team from the Mine Safety and Health Administration has swept through the Revenue-Virginius Mine, issuing almost 100 citations to owner/operator Star Mine Operations following a fatal accident there one month ago.
The citations were issued over a one-week period between Dec. 4-11. It is unclear from MSHA reports how many of the citations are germane to events that led to the deaths of powderman trainee Nick Cappano and shift supervisor Rick Williams on the morning of Sunday, Nov. 17.
The two miners were in an area of the mine where explosives had been detonated the day before they encountered the fatal levels of carbon monoxide, according to an MSHA “fatalgram” pertaining to the accident issued on Dec. 3.
Many of the MSHA citations appear to address fairly straightforward housekeeping and maintenance matters. Others, however, suggest safety violations of a more serious nature, including to inadequate air quality monitoring, failure to post or barricade unventilated areas and maintain safe travelways, improper disposal of deteriorated explosive materials and inadequate escapeways and refuge chambers.
A Dec. 5 citation refers to the MSHA regulation requiring self-rescue devices to be worn or carried by all persons underground. Two Dec. 10 citations indicate there were training issues at Star Mine, leading up to the date of the accident, in regard to adequate “refresher” training for experienced miners and the training of miners assigned to tasks with which they had no previous experience, particularly in regard to blasting operations.
Forty of the 97 MSHA citations issued in its accident investigation have already been “terminated,” indicating that Star Mine Operations rectified or cured those areas of violation. No fines or penalties have been assessed yet for any of the current citations.
The Revenue-Virginius Mine, which dates to the 1870s, was taken over by the Denver-based Star Mine Operations in 2011. Prior to November’s fatal accident, the company had accrued a total of 34 MSHA citations during its two years of operations, most of which have since been terminated. None of those earlier citations specifically addressed ventilation or disposal of explosives, or appeared to otherwise foreshadow events leading to November’s fatalities.