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Miner’s death preventable, regulators say

Thu., Dec. 16, 2010, 5:15 p.m.

An accident that killed a contract worker at the Galena Mine in June was preventable, according to a federal investigation that cited “more than ordinary negligence” on the part of mine operators.

Timothy Allen Bush, 29, died after being struck by a falling rock slab. Bush was former All-American football player at the University of Montana.

He and his cousin were working on a vertical overhead opening, called a “raise,” at the underground silver mine near Silverton, Idaho, on June 18. When the accident occurred, Bush was using a six-foot long “scaling bar” to scrape loose rocks from the opening, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. He died of blunt force trauma.

Inadequate management, safety policies and procedures “didn’t protect people working in the raise,” said MSHA’s accident investigation report, which was released Thursday.

The report said that the work area was hazardous, because adequate ground support hadn’t been installed to stabilize the rock. In addition, Bush’s scaling bar wasn’t long enough for him to work out of the range of falling rock, it said.

Bush had been a miner for six years. He worked for United Mine Services, a contractor at the Galena Mine. The company was cited for negligence in the report, along with the Galena’s owner, U.S. Silver Corp.

It’s unclear whether either company will be fined for safety violations. Amy Louviere, MSHA’s spokeswoman, said any fines resulting from citations are calculated by the agency’s Office of Assessments, a process that comes later.

Greg Stewart, president of United Mine Service, said he was still reviewing the report and declined comment. Officials at U.S. Silver Corp. could not be reached for comment.

Since the accident, steps were taken to make the Galena safer, the report said. Miners received training on proper scaling methods. Management policies and procedures were established to make sure that workers installing ground support are protected, and some workers received extra training on evaluating rock stability.

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