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Agency blames lack of control for Kensington Mine accident

Posted: February 29, 2012 - 4:20pm

JUNEAU — A federal agency blames inadequate management policies, procedures and controls for a fatal accident at an Alaska mine last year.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration on Wednesday released its report on the September accident at the Kensington gold mine, about 45 miles from Juneau. The mine is owned by Idaho-based Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp. Mine worker Joseph Tagaban, 30, was killed in a rock blast.

According to the investigation report, Tagaban and another worker were blasting when the accident occurred. The rock and debris that hit Tagaban passed through a 3-inch diameter drill hole that intersected the blast site. Tagaban was about 200 feet from the blast site and in line with the drill hole when the blast was initiated, the report states.

The agency found that an adequate examination was not done to check for hazards prior to workers initiating the production blast. It said people were not trained to be out of the blast area or in a place that would protect them from concussion, flying material or gases. It also said the blaster and the blaster's helper, Tagaban, were not given a blasting shelter or removed from the blast area for their protection.

The agency said the mine company has taken corrective action, including implementing new policies and procedures for blasting that removes everyone from the blast area. Management also has provided additional training to help workers better check for hazards or identify diamond drill holes before conducting work, like blasting.

Amy Louviere, an agency spokeswoman, said Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp. made the changes they needed to make but will likely still be fined.

Stefany Bales, a spokeswoman for the mine company, said Coeur d'Alene Mines disagrees with the agency's conclusions and is contesting the citation. However, she said the company has complied with what the agency has requested and in some cases has gone beyond.

"We do, as a company, want to emphasize that nothing is more important to us than the safety of our workers," she said.

Kensington employs about 250 people, she said.

The mine began commercial production in July 2010.

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