A 26-year old man has died of injuries sustained while constructing an underground mine shaft at the Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan, Idaho. According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, Brandon Lloyd Gray died Saturday after he and a Cementation U.S.A. coworker became trapped in an underground rock bin they were excavating for Hecla Mining Company on Thursday.
The unidentified coworker was taken to the hospital and released with minor injuries. Cementation claims both miners were equipped with the proper safety gear, though company representatives and officials from the Mine Safety and Health Administration are investigating the matter. Hecla has ceased mining operations at the Lucky Friday in response to an MSHA order filed to preserve evidence.
Gray’s death comes just seven months after a fellow minor died from a similar accident at the Lucky Friday Mine. According to KXLY, Larry Marek was killed in April when a mine support pillar collapsed and left him buried under a pile of rocks for over a week. Marek’s family later claimed that the pillar had been weakened from ore extraction and that many miners were concerned the area was not safe. Since Marek’s death, the MSHA has levied nine citations against Hecla for not having the proper safety precautions to prevent support failures like the one that killed Marek. Hecla also received two citations for a July fire at Lucky Friday. All miners were evacuated safely in that incident.
The cause of Thursday’s tragedy has yet to be determined. A Hecla news release states that “for reasons that are unknown at this time, the two men were drawn into material that was moving underneath them.” Phil Baker, the Chief Exectutive Officer of Hecla, extended sympathies to Gray’s family in a separate statement released Friday. Baker went on to say that “operating our mines safely is a top priority for Hecla, and we will continue to work to prevent such incidents from occurring.”
With two seemingly preventable deaths in the last seven months at Lucky Friday, what more will it take for Hecla to seriously increase safety precautions to avoid another tragedy?
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