Two Workers Dead at Alaska Gold Mine

Congress has given significant attention over the last 18 months to the dangers facing US coal miners, but many fatal hazards claim the lives of other miners, such as those working at sand and gravel quarries, limestone and salt mines.  This year, nearly twice as many miners have died at US metal and non-metal mining operations compared to coal mines.  But, like most workplace fatalities, the deaths typically occur one miner at a time.  These means the deaths rarely attract national attention. 

On Thursday, July 19, Craig Bagley, 27 and Tyler Kahle, 19, were working in a lift basket about 50 feet off the ground, as part of an ironworking crew.  The men, employees of a contractor (Alaska Mechanical, Inc.,) were working at the NovaGold Resources’ Rock Creek gold mine near Nome, Alaska.  The lift basket became unstable and toppled to the ground, killing the two men.  

The general manager at the mine reported that an MSHA inspection had occurred at the site 10 days earlier.  Using MSHA’s on-line database of inspections, I wasn’t able to confirm that any recent inspection took place.  I did notice that MSHA had recently received hazard complaints about the mine, one in December 2006 and one in April 2007.  MSHA’s records show that hazard compaint investigations were conducted, but no citations were issued.  The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner provides further details here on this fatal accident. 

To-date, there is no information provided on MSHA’s website about these deaths.  There have been 26 reported fatal injuries at US mining operations this year, 17 at metal and non-metal mining operations and 9 at coal mines.

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