RENO, Nev. – Federal regulators have fined Newmont Mining Corp. more than $500,000 for safety violations they say contributed to the death of a worker at an underground gold mine in Nevada.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration also announced Tuesday that four supervisors for the Denver-based mining company have agreed to pay a combined $60,000 in individual penalties for their role in the accident at the Midas Mine north of Elko in June 2007.
The agency said managers "showed a disregard for the miners' welfare" and acted with "more than ordinary negligence" before the victim fell through a sinkhole while operating a large loader about 200 feet below the entrance of the mine.
Michael A. Davis, MSHA's deputy assistant secretary for operations, said several Newmont employees were aware of safety deficiencies at the time but continued to require miners to work and travel in hazardous areas.
Richard Manning, an administrative law judge for the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, approved the penalties, Davis said in a statement.
The violations included failure to provide adequate controls to guard against cave-ins and failure to provide adequate barricades and signs to warn miners about the hidden hazards of sinkholes, he said.
In addition, Newmont was cited for impeding MSHA's investigation of the accident by failing to provide maps and other documents, as well as failing to report the entrapment within the required 15 minutes.
The first-line supervisor, two general foremen and the engineer in charge agreed to pay the $60,000 for their roles in the "flagrant ground control violation," the agency said. Their names were not immediately released.
The 30-year-old victim, Thomas Daniel Shaw of Winnemucca, and the loader he was operating fell through the floor of one level of the mine on June 19, 2007. He had been working to use a mixture of concrete to backfill a space that had been left open after ore was removed during the underground mining process, MSHA said.
Rescue crews worked around the clock for 13 days and removed 5,000 tons of debris before his body was recovered July 2 about 30 feet below the site where he had been working. No one else was injured.
Newmont spokeswoman Mary Korpi said the company has implemented a number of new safety measures at the mine since the accident, including new requirements for operations around sinkholes and additional checks and balances in engineering and design.
"We continue to mourn Dan Shaw's loss and implement the lessons of this tragic accident," Korpi said.
"Although we do not agree with all the accusations and findings, we felt it was in everyone's best interest to finalize the agreement and bring closure to this matter," she said.
MSHA's investigative report on the accident said that prior to the fatality, Newmont managers failed to follow repeated recommendations by their own consultants and experts for installing and maintaining an effective system to alleviate sinkholes — which the agency calls "subsidence issues" — in the mine.
"Management engaged in aggravated conduct constituting more than ordinary negligence in that it was aware of previous subsidence ... and failed to correct mining practices and hazardous conditions," the report said.