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Troy Mine fined for safety violations

A federal agency has fined the operators of the Troy Mine in northwestern Montana $417,000 for safety violations discovered six months after an underground mechanic was killed last summer during a rock fall.

The four violations, described as “flagrant” by Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors, were related to loose, overhead rock at the copper-silver mine.

“A miner lost his life because of inadequately supported ground conditions last year,” Richard Stickler, acting assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, said in a news release. “Other miners could have been seriously injured or lost their lives. Mine operators who repeatedly ignore safety regulations will be held accountable.”

Revett Mineral Inc., a Spokane Valley firm that is the Troy Mine’s majority owner, will appeal, said Carson Rife, vice president of operations.

“In the meantime, we’re standing behind our employees and their efforts to make the mine as safe as they can,” Rife said.

Mike Ivins, of Libby, Mont., was killed in July when falling rock crushed the cab of his pickup. Federal inspectors visited the Troy Mine after the incident, writing 15 citations related to loose, overhead rocks in other areas of the mine.

During a January visit, inspectors still had concerns. They spotted loose rocks in heavily traveled areas of the mine and issued four flagrant citations, defined as a “reckless or repeated failure” to make reasonable efforts to correct a known safety violation.

The violations put workers’ lives at risk, officials said. About 180 people work at the Troy Mine.

Rife said the Troy Mine operates under a ground-support plan approved the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Before the fatality, Rife said the mine went 12 months without a lost-time accident. No lost-time accidents have been reported since Ivins was killed, he said.

“We have a very good overall safety record,” Rife said.