The Kensington mine accident that killed Juneau resident Joe Tagaban last week is the eighth U.S. mining fatality in 2011, according to the Mining Safety and Health Administration. It was also the first explosives fatality for the year. An updated report from MSHA indicates Tagaban was waiting on a ramp for the blast to be initiated. And when it was, small rock and debris traveled through a three-inch diameter diamond borehole, striking him. The regulatory agency says the hole should have been mapped and plugged. The report lists several best practices for using underground explosives; that includes evacuating all persons from the designated blasting site.
The underground section of the Kensington mine where the accident occurred was closed for a week during the initial investigation. While the mine is back in full operation, no blasting can be conducted in production stopes until MSHA says it’s safe. Stopes are openings – or rooms – created in the process of extracting the gold ore. Coeur Alaska spokesman Tony Ebersole says the company is working with MSHA to finalize blasting protocols in production stopes. Blasting activities related to mine development are continuing. The company says it doesn’t expect the closure will impact 2011 production levels. Through the first six months of this year Kensington has produced more than 49,000 ounces of gold.
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