LAS VEGAS (AP) — Federal safety regulators blamed mine management in the death of a worker at Nevada gold mine this spring, saying managers didn't ensure his workplace was free of dangerous clutter and allowed him to work alone where other employees couldn't hear his cries for help.
A U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration report published Monday said Klondex Midas Operations would be cited in the incident, although agency spokeswoman Amy Louviere said Wednesday that the penalty amount hadn't yet been decided.
"Management engaged in aggravated conduct constituting more than ordinary negligence," the report said.
Richard C. Otto, 53, suffocated April 28 when his coveralls got caught in a drill at the Midas Mine, about 90 miles northwest of Elko. A co-worker who found him unresponsive and on his knees while the drill was still running turned off the machine and called for help.
Emergency responders pulled Otto out of the mine and tried to resuscitate him, but he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
Inspectors said they found no mechanical problems with the drill, but they said rocks, tools and a bucket strewn about the workplace presented tripping hazards that Otto could have slipped on while he moved around. They also noted that he was working alone where other miners could not see him.
The site of the accident has since been closed off.
Brent Kristof, chief operating officer of Klondex Mines, said inspectors didn't explain the root cause behind the accident, and said the company would challenge the agency's disciplinary actions.
"We believe that MSHA failed to consider critical information and reached conclusions which don't appear to be supported by the evidence in the report," Kristof said.
He added that the death of Otto, a miner with 32 years of experience in the industry, had deeply affected the staff.
"He was organized, safety conscious and was often used to train other employees. He would never have allowed himself to work in the conditions alleged by MSHA," Kristof said.