MAC: Mines and Communities

Mining "accidents" may be increasing

Published by MAC on 2010-08-16
Source: EFE, Bloomberg, AFP, others

Mine workers continue falling victim to accidents at rates which, in some countries, appear to be on the increase.

Thirty three miners remain trapped underground at a copper-gold operation in Chile.

Others have died at coal mines in Mexico and in Colombia - where the country's biggest mining company, El Cerrejon, has been responsible for the deaths of four men.

According to researcher, Avi Chomsky, who recently visited Cerrejon, those who died were employed by a sub-contractor. One of the demands made by SINTRACARBON, the national coal mineworkers union, is for better conditions and adquate protection for sub-contracted workers.

After 16 people were killed by a gold mine fire earlier this month at Yantai in Shandong province, China's leading mining company, Zijin, announced that it was suspending all its operations in the area.

Two workers have also died in Barrick's Meikle Mine in Nevada, USA, illustrating that such accidents also reach to mines in 'developed' countries.


Four Dead, 12 Injured in Mining Accident in Colombia


7 August 2010

BOGOTA - Four people were killed and 12 others injured when a platform collapsed while repairs were being made at the El Cerrejon mine in the northeastern province of Guajira, the mining company said Thursday.

The platform collapsed on Wednesday while 16 workers tried to fix a coal silo, the El Cerrejon mining company said in a statement.

One worker was brought out of the mine alive but died while being transported to a hospital.

The other three workers died at the accident scene from the injuries they sustained, the company said.

Colombia experienced its worst mining accident in recent years in June, when an explosion at a coal mine killed 73 people.

The explosion occurred on June 16 at the San Fernando mine in the northwestern town of Amaga, while most of the miners were working at a depth of 2,600 meters (8,524 feet).

The blast, apparently due to an accumulation of gas, occurred during a shift change.

Ninety of the 163 miners inside at the time of the accident walked out under their own power the following morning.

A November 2008 flood in a different shaft at San Fernando left five workers dead, while 86 people perished in a 1977 explosion at a another coal mine in Amaga.

Cerrejon Says Coal Storage Unit Accident Kills Four Workers in Colombia

By Heather Wals


5 August 2010

Cerrejon, the world's largest open-pit mine of coal for export,* said four workers died and 12 were injured last night after an accident at a coal storage unit in northern Colombia.

An elevated platform collapsed as employees at contracting companies repaired a coal silo, according to a statement distributed today by Cerrejon. The mine is owned by BHP Billiton Plc, the world's biggest mining company, Anglo American Plc and Xstrata Plc, the biggest exporter of coal for power stations.

Seven of the injured workers have been released from the hospital, according to the statement. The incident boosts the number of deadly coal accidents this year in Colombia. An explosion and cave-in at the San Fernando mine in northwestern Colombia killed more than 70 workers in June, prompting demands for greater government oversight of the industry.

Colombia is South America's largest producer of coal and the world's fourth-largest coal exporter, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

* MAC editorial note: El Cerrejon's operations consist of six main pits, rather than one  mine. The world's biggest exporter of coal is Kaltim Prima (KPC) in East Kalimantan, Indonesia.

One Miner Dead, Other Survives 8 Days in Mexican Coal Mine


10 August 2010

MEXICO CITY – A miner died and another miner survived spending eight days trapped in a coal mine in northern Mexico, Congressman Miguel Ernesto Pompa Corella said.

The two men were trapped at the La Florida mine in Muzquiz, a town in Coahuila state’s coal region, the lawmaker said in a statement.

Pompa Corella called on the Labor Secretariat to “review compliance with mine safety regulations in the coal region” of northern Mexico.

The miners were trapped on July 30 while working to repair damage caused by flooding and heavy rains in the area.

Miner Plutarco Ruiz Loredo, 44, was rescued on Friday, but Ramon Sanchez Arellano, 36, died, Pompa Corella, who chairs the Chamber of Deputies’ mining affairs committee, said.

“The death of a mine worker puts one more family in Coahuila’s coal-mining region in mourning and sheds light on the negligence of the country’s labor officials in protecting workers,” the congressman said.

“There are no guarantees for the workers, who sometimes even have to pay with their lives for their livelihoods,” Pompa Corella said.

The congressman said he called on Labor Secretary Javier Lozano Alarcon to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations at Mexico’s mines five days before the accident in Muzquiz.

The mine was closed until a month ago and reopened so water could be pumped out.

The La Florida coal mine and others across Coahuila were flooded by the heavy rains from Hurricane Alex.

Sanchez Arellano’s death has once again cast a shadow over the mining industry in Coahuila, where 65 miners died in a collapse caused by an explosion at the Pasta de Conchos mine on Feb. 19, 2006.

The bodies of 63 of the miners ended up buried at the mine despite pleas from their families and the SNTMM mine workers union that they be recovered.

The SNTMM labeled the Pasta de Conchos accident “industrial homicide” and blamed mine operator Grupo Mexico, which is owned by German Larrea, for the miners’ deaths.

Gold Mine Blaze Kills 16 Workers In China

By David Williams

Sky News Online

7 August 2010

Sixteen people have been killed in a fire which had initially trapped 50 workers at a gold mine in eastern China.

Rescue workers pulled out the last seven miners penned in underground at the Lingnan Gold Mine in Zhaoyuan city in Shandong province.

More than 300 workers were cleared from the site after the fire broke out on Friday.

An underground cable is believed to have caused the blaze, which has now been put out. The mine's owner has been taken into police custody.

Meanwhile, in Chile, 34 miners have become trapped inside a copper and gold mine after a cave-in.

Dozens of rescue workers are scrambling to access the workers in the San Esteban mine, near the city of Copiapo, in the Atacama desert, 480 miles north of Santiago.

The Chinese government has attempted to improve workers' safety

It was not immediately clear if there were casualties from the accident.

The fire in Zhaoyuan city continues a rise in the number of Chinese mining deaths since the turn of the year.

The country has the world's deadliest mining industry with more than 2,600 people killed in accidents last year.

This week, 25 miners were killed in two separate incidents when lethal gas seeped into the mines where they were working.

Nine workers were killed at a mine on Monday in central Henan province, a day before 16 workers perished in southwestern Guizhou province.

The Chinese government has attempted to improve workers' safety, but faced huge obstacles.

Zijin Mining Shandong subsidiaries suspend operations

Interfax China Metals & Mining

13 August 2010

Zijin Mining Group Co. Ltd. announced on August 10 that its two subsidiaries based in Yantai, Shandong Province, namely Shandong Longkou Jinfeng Co. Ltd. and Longkou Jintai Gold Co. Ltd., have suspended operations following a request from the local government.

According to the announcement, the Yantai municipal government made the decision to suspend operations at all local underground non-coal mines on Aug. 7 in order to carry out safety inspections. This came after a fire broke out at Lingnan Mining Co. Ltd.'s Luoshan gold mine in Zhaoyuan, a county-level city in Yantai, which killed 16 workers.

Longkou Jinfeng has a planned output of 340 kilograms for this year and has already achieved 161 kilograms in the first six months of the year. The temporary closure of its mine is expected to have a negative impact on its output.

Zijin Mining Group is listed on both the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges. Longkou Jintai is an exploration firm.

Hopes fade for trapped miners in Chile


12 August 2010

SANTIAGO - Chilean authorities acknowledged Wednesday that hopes were fading fast of rescuing alive a group of 33 trapped miners despite rescuers' frantic efforts to reach them six days on.

There has been no word on the condition of the workers, who were trapped some 400 meters (1,300 feet) underground when the entrance to the San Esteban copper mine collapsed 800 kilometers north of Santiago.

Problems that searchers ran into as they dug a duct to try to reach the 33, left officials downbeat about chances that any may have survived.

Searchers were building six ducts simultaneously. One was almost half-way to the location authorities believe the miners are near when engineers realized they could not continue and would have to start over.

"First we have to establish contact with them and then look at possibilities for getting them out," said Mining Minister Laurence Golborne, who is leading rescue efforts.

As opposed to smaller ducts "the alternatives one can have using a tunnel from above are tough, and take a long time, since tunnels generally take months to build and we are talking about large distances not short ones," he stressed.

Rescuers at first focused on reaching the miners through a ventilation shaft, but ceased operations when the shaft collapsed on Saturday, dealing the rescue operation a major setback.

Since Sunday, they have worked to drill into the mine, hoping to first pass food and water to the trapped workers and then eventually bring them up to the surface.

"From a human point of view it has been very difficult... and frustrating not knowing if the miners are dead or alive," Golborne added.

Anxious families have camped out at the site of the copper and gold mine, awaiting news of their loved ones, who include 55-year-old Franklin Lobos, a one-time footballer who played for a number of Chilean clubs and even made the national team that competed in the 1984 Olympics.

Pinera Fires Officials as Chile Miners Remain Trapped

By Matt Craze


11 August 2010

Chile's President Sebastian Pinera asked for the resignation of the country's chief mining regulator as 33 workers remained trapped in an underground mine for a seventh day.

Pinera dismissed Alejandro Vio, director of Chile's geological and mining service known as Sernageomin, as well as two other officials, he said in a televised speech today.

The government will carry out a "profound restructuring" of Sernageomin to improve mining safety in Chile, the world's largest copper producer, he said.

Efforts to find and free the workers continue. They were trapped in Cia. Minera San Esteban Primera SA's San Jose copper and gold mine in northern Chile's Atacama region after an access tunnel caved in Aug. 5.

Two miners killed in Nevada mine accident identified

CNN Wire Staff

15 August 2010

Two miners who died this week in a Nevada mining accident were identified Saturday, according to the mine's owner. Crews late Friday found the bodies of Daniel Patrick Noel, 47, and Ethan Joel Schorr, 38, both of Spring Creek, Nevada, Barrick Gold Corp. said in a statement.

Noel is survived by a wife and three children. Schorr is survived by a wife and four children.

Their bodies were found about 1,300 feet underground, Barrick said.

The accident occurred at 1:15 a.m. (4:15 a.m. ET) on Thursday in Elko County, Nevada. According to Barrick, two miners in an elevator were inspecting a large pipe in a vertical shaft when the pipe fell into the shaft, damaging the elevator.

All underground operations at the Meikle mine were suspended, the company said.

"This is a tragic event and we remain focused on assisting these miners' families," Greg Lang, president of Barrick's North America region, said in a statement. "The hearts and prayers of every Barrick employee are with them at this time. We place great value in our coworkers' health and safety, and we will do everything we can to prevent an incident like this from happening again."

The company said Barrick and the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration worked for more than 32 hours to reach the area where the bodies were found.

The MSHA reports at least 53 fatalities so far this year, including at least 42 coal-related deaths and at least 11 metal-related deaths.

MHSA: Several past deaths at Barrick's NE mine complex

12 August 2010

After digging into the history of the Meikle Mine in Elko County, where crews are still looking for two missing miners, News 4 found that there have been a number deaths at the facility and the Goldstrike Complex that it is a part of.

The last mining death at the Meikle Mine, located within the Goldstrike Mining Complex occurred in 2004, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. In all there have been three deaths at the mine since 1999; one in 2004, one in 2000, and one in 1999, according to the administration. There have been five deaths that occurred at the Goldstrike Complex since 1995; one in 2005, one in 2003, two in 2002 and one in 1995, according to the administration.

In 2004 a lead miner was killed when his truck drifted forward and pinned him between his truck and a concreted rib. In 2000 a miner was killed when he backed a water truck into an open shaft. And in 1999 a truck driver was killed in an underground crash, when a large mining vehicle slammed into a smaller truck. Since 1995 there have been five other deaths in that mining complex. Not including this specific mine.

The Meikle Mine has been in operation since 1994.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration has imposed $424,774 in fines against Barrick Gold Corporation since the start of 2008. Only $6,360.69 of the fines have been paid since 2008, according to administration records.

Since 2008 there have been 284 violations just on Barrick Gold Corp., other subcontractors have had dozens of violations as well. There is one payment final order of August 11, 2009 that is delinquent in the amount of $12,563.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration cited Barrick for the 2002 deaths at the Goldstrike Complex in Feb. 2003 "under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 57.5005(a):

"Two miners were fatally injured at this mine on October 17, 2002. Both miners collapsed while wearing self-contained breathing apparatus during exploration of an inactive underground mine. The atmosphere in this mine was unventilated and the concentrations of oxygen and possible toxic gases were unknown. The air temperature was expected to be near 100 degrees Fahrenheit with very high humidity. The self-contained breathing apparatus that were worn by both victims were not being used in approved condition and in accordance with the prior training and instruction in that frozen GelPaks/GelTubes had not been inserted into each unit's cooler as required by the manufacturer's User Instruction Manual and as required by joint MSHA and NIOSH certification criteria."

The citation was "terminated" on February 27, 2003, the administration said. The company ensured that they will follow the guidelines set in the Biomarine User Instruction Manual, according to the administration.

Barrick is contesting many of the fines or findings, and according to the federal data the mining giant is delinquent in paying thousands of dollars in fines.

One person died in Eureka County, Nevada in 2009, according to federal government statistics.

Three mine workers died in Nevada in 2008, none of which were within the Goldstrike Complex.

There have been 11 people that have died in metal mines across the nation this year, although none of those were in Nevada, according to federal government statistics.

Click here to read more about the two missing miners at the Meikle Mine

Click here to see citations and violation against Barrick Gold Corp. since 2008


Barrick Gold Corp.'s official description of Gold Strike:

The Goldstrike Complex is located on the Carlin Trend, the most prolific gold mining district in the Western Hemisphere, about 60 kilometres northwest of Elko, Nevada, USA. The Goldstrike operations consist of the Betze-Post open pit mine and the Meikle and Rodeo underground mines which are located just north of the Betze-Post pit, along the same mineralized trend.

The Betze-Post pit is a truck-and-shovel operation using large electric shovels. Meikle is a high-grade ore body which is mined by transverse longhole stoping, underhand drift and fill mining methods. Rodeo is a further extension of the mineralization found at Goldstrike and is a trackless operation, using two different underground mining methods: long-hole open stoping and drift-and-fill.

The Goldstrike Property consists of two processing facilities: (1) an autoclave circuit, which is used to treat the property's non-carbonaceous sulfide (refractory) ore; and (2) the roaster, used for treating carbonaceous ore (not suitable for autoclaving). These facilities treat ores from both the surface and underground operations.

In 2009, the Goldstrike Property produced 1.36 million ounces of gold at total cash costs of $464 per ounce1. Goldstrike's estimated proven and probable mineral reserves as of December 31, 2009 were 12.2 million ounces of gold.

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