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Marianne Kobak McKown / Mining Quarterly file 

The lights from a vehicle are seen as it drives into the Lee Smith Mine at Jerritt Canyon in this December 2015 photo.

Mining resumes at Lee Smith underground following fatality

ELKO – Small Mine Development LLC has resumed mining at Jerritt Canyon Gold’s Lee Smith underground mine north of Elko after operations were halted following a fatality on Oct. 25, but SMD is still awaiting word from inspectors to return to full operations.

U.S Mine Safety and Health Administration ordered the halt after Jason Holman, 42, of Goshen, Utah, died in a fall of ground. The agency partially lifted the order in two segments in December.

“We hope the order will be fully lifted soon, but we are waiting to hear back from the agency,” Keith Jones of SMD said Jan. 8. “We hope to have all employees back to work once the full 103(K) order is lifted.”

Miners at Lee Smith were furloughed during the full shutdown, but a portion of them were allowed back Dec. 3 to do rehabilitation bolting and shotcreting, and MSHA allowed mining and backfilling beginning Dec. 17.

“As the order was modified to allow mining to resume, additional employees have been brought back,” Jones said. “Full-scale operation is roughly 80 employees. We are at approximately 50 employees as of last week.”

Idaho-based SMD is a mining contractor operating Lee Smith Mine roughly 50 miles from Elko for Jerritt Canyon Gold, a Toronto-based private company.

MSHA has the authority to stop operations at the site and related sites when there is a fatality or serious injury. In the Lee Smith case, which involved cemented rockfill, the order was imposed on all underground headings that had cemented backfill.

“This effectively shut down the entire mine while investigation and evaluation by MSHA and MSHA technical support was ongoing,” Jones said in an email.

MSHA is still investigating the fatality, but the preliminary report states that “a miner died when the back/roof fell while loading explosives in the face. The back, which was comprised of cemented backfill, weighed approximately 150 tons. A portion of this cemented backfill, weighing approximately 5 tons, landed on top of the miner.”

Teri Williams, public information officer for the Nevada Department of Business and Industry said on Jan. 9 that the “state investigation remains open and ongoing.” State mine safety investigators are working with MSHA.

Holman’s job was powderman, and he had 13 years of mining experience, according to the MSHA report.

Holman’s death was one of two mining fatalities in Nevada in 2018. The second death was that of Romney Natapu, 45. At Newmont Mining Corp.’s Pete Bajo underground gold mine north of Carlin in Eureka County. He died on Nov. 11 when he was run over by a loader he was operating, according to MSHA’s preliminary report on that accident.

MSHA confirmed Jan. 8 it is funded so operations continue during the partial shutdown of the federal government.

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Nevada panel backs new name for Jeff Davis Peak

RENO (AP) — A state board wants to change the name of a mountain peak in eastern Nevada’s Great Basin National Park to more appropriately recognize a geological area important to a native tribe instead of honoring the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The Nevada Board of Geographic Names voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend to a federal panel in charge of making such decisions that the name of Jeff Davis Peak be changed to the Shoshone name “Doso Doyabi.”

The phrase — pronounced “DOH-soh doy-AH-bee” — means “white mountain” in the native dialect.

Tribal elders say it’s a reference to the fact the summit of the 12,771-foot mountain near the Utah line was covered in snow year-round.

Support for a name change first emerged in 2017 during a push to remove Confederate monuments in various locations across the country.

Christine K. Johnson, the collection manager for the Nevada Historical Society who serves as a non-voting member on the state board, says the name approved Tuesday was supported by the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe as well as members of other area tribes. She said a formal application for the name change will be forwarded to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Board on Geographic Names.

Tribal member Warren Graham said in a letter on behalf of the Duckwater Shoshone Elders Committee that reinstating the mountain’s original name would honor their cultural heritage.

“These places were called something else before they were renamed,” by Euro-American settlers, Graham said. “Some of these names are disappearing along with our elders and it is good that these names are not forgotten.”

Jeff Davis Peak is about 240 miles southwest Salt Lake City. Davis’ name originally graced a neighboring mountain now known as Wheeler Peak, Nevada’s second highest point.

During a survey in 1855, Lt. Col. Edward Steptoe of the U.S. Army Corps named the peak after his boss, then-U.S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who later became the president of the Confederate States of America. Wheeler Peak got its permanent name after George Montague Wheeler scaled the mountain in 1869, and the neighboring peak then became Jeff Davis.

The renaming was formally proposed last year by tribal elders who said their mother was one of the few survivors of the Spring Valley massacre in 1863 when the U.S. military killed a group of Shoshones nearby. The University of Utah’s Shoshone Language Project verified the name’s authenticity.

Board members voiced their support of the change in September as a symbol of “reconciliation not division,” according to the board’s minutes.

Jack Hursh, a cartographer and publications specialist at the Nevada Bureau of Mines & Geology who serves on the panel, was among those who backed the Shoshone proposal.

“The Doso Doyabi name is a Nevadan name proposed by Nevadans,” he said in an email Wednesday to The Associated Press.

Officials for the federal board couldn’t be reached for comment because of the federal government shutdown.

U.S. board research staffer Jennifer Runyon told the AP in 2017 the panel typically is reluctant to change well-established names in long-standing published or spoken use, “but will consider doing so if the proponent can demonstrate that there is a compelling reason and if there is local support for the change.”

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2018 mine fatalities were 2nd lowest on record

There were 27 fatalities in U.S. mines in 2018, the second-lowest number ever recorded, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The Department of Labor reported Jan. 9 that there were 18 fatalities at surface operations and nine underground in coal and metal/nonmetal mines nationwide.

Across the United States, about 250,000 miners work in 12,000 metal/nonmetal mines. About 83,000 miners work in the nation’s 1,200 coal mines, according to the DOI.

The leading cause of fatalities was powered haulage, which accounted for 13 fatalities or 48 percent of the annual total, the department reported.

The deadliest year in the history of mining was 1907, when an estimated 3,242 people lost their lives in the coal industry, according to MSHA.

Two of the 2018 fatalities occurred in Nevada’s underground mines.

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Council puts swimming pool repairs on fast track

ELKO – In an effort to expedite swimming pool repairs, Elko City Council has authorized city staff to go out for bid, although the packet isn’t ready yet to advertise for contractors.

“We aren’t actually going out to bid today,” Recreation Director James Wiley said Jan. 9. “We’ve still got a couple of weeks of work to finish the drawings and packet, but I wanted to get ahead of the game to save time. As soon as they are ready, we will go to bid.”

After outlining the steps to get the pool ready to reopen, he said “the ultimate goal is to have the pool open the first week of June, if there are no bumps in the road.”

Those steps include 20 days of advertising once the project is out for bid, opening and reviewing bids, going back to the council for approval of a contractor, 30 days to complete contracts before a notice to proceed and then construction time, which Wiley estimated at 60 days.

Lostra Engineering’s estimated cost for the repairs is $343,000, which Wiley said includes prevailing wage figures. Should the actual cost be below $250,000, the prevailing wage requirement could be waived.

He said the $343,000 figure is “just an estimate, but usually our estimates are pretty good.”

Elko City Manager Curtis Calder told the council at the Jan. 8 meeting that Barrick Gold Corp.’s $83,500 donation toward the pool project is “an actual check in the mail” with no strings, and he also has applied to Newmont Mining Corp.’s community investment program for a donation.

“We will have adequate funds to get the project funded and back on track,” he said.

Calder said there is money in the contingency fund for the unexpected repairs, and the city is “open to donations.”

Wiley said in a phone interview Jan. 9 he hasn’t received any donations beyond Barrick’s, which the company offered without a request from the city, but he can be reached at 777-7266.

The new council and mayor, Reece Keener, voted unanimously to allow staff to go out to bid. Councilman Robert Schmidtlein was absent. New councilmen Chip Stone and Bill Hance joined Mandy Simons and Keener in the vote.

The city closed the municipal pool on Nov. 27 because of a failure in the northern wall of the facility, which has meant the Elko Swim Team went to Battle Mountain for practice. There are still some going to Battle Mountain, but the team also is practicing at the High Desert Inn’s pool in Elko, according to the hotel.

High Desert Inn also offers monthly memberships for locals to use the hotel pool.