Nevada among nation’s leaders with nine mining fatalities
ELKO, Nev. – Nevada, Kentucky and West Virginia led the nation with nine each of the nation’s 87 mining fatalities last year, federal safety officials said.
Nevada’s nine deaths were a big jump over the two recorded in the Silver State in 1998, said Ed Tomany, chief administrative officer and mine inspector for the Nevada Division of Industrial Relations Mine Safety and Training Section.
The state is still seeking answers to why so many died, he said.
”We’re going back through reports again,” Tomany told the Elko Daily Free Press.
That review includes all the safety training information because there could be a ”training adjustment that could help in prevention,” he said.
Tomany and Bill Wilson, assistant manager for MSHA’s western district, both said this week that their agencies are still investigating the death of Bruce Kempffer, 62, of California, who was killed at a small mine in Lyon County. His body was found Nov. 9 along with that of his wife, Momi Kempffer, 73.
Mine safety officials in Nevada still aren’t sure whether to include Kempffer’s death. His body was found under a pile of rocks at the small mom and pop underground mine, and Wilson said it could be a prospecting death rather than a mining death.
His wife’s death was apparently from natural causes, however. Her body was found outside the mine entrance, according to earlier news reports.
The 87 fatalities nationwide in 1999 were up 9 percent over the all-time low of 80 recorded for 1998, according to the U.S. Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration.
”The loss of any miner is unacceptable,” Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman said. ”We must continue to do everything we can to make this industry safer.”
The deaths included 34 in coal mines, up from 29 in 1998, and 53 in metal and non-metal mines, up from 51 in 1998.
The fatality rate between the 1990-94 period and the 1995-1999 period improved from an average of 103 deaths to an average of 88 deaths, safety officials said.
”The overall decline in mining deaths is important, but last year’s increase shows us that there can never be too much vigilance,” said Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.
Kentucky and West Virginia had the highest number of fatal coal mining accidents, with nine each, followed by Virginia with four deaths, MSHA reported.
The nine Nevada fatalities were well above the number of deaths in other states with metal and non-metal mines. Alabama, Indiana, Arizona and Mississippi were next with three fatalities each, MSHA said.
Thirteen of the 53 metal and non-metal fatalities occurred at underground mining operations, while the remaining accidents occurred at surface mines, MSHA reported.
Powered haulage was the leading cause of accidental deaths in metal and non-metal mines, claiming the lives of 18 miners.
Even before the Kempffer fatality, however, MSHA was worried enough about an increase in fatalities in Nevada to increase its staff at the Elko office as well as bring in extra inspectors on temporary duty after three fatalities in October.
Wilson said in December that the agency doubled its presence in northern Nevada for several weeks because the number of fatalities was ”not acceptable and we have to try to do something to eliminate them.”