The Mine Safety and Health Administration released its final report Tuesday on the Nov. 11, 2018 fatality at the Pete Bajo mine west of Elko. The report said Romney Natapu, a 45-year-old underground technician with more than eight years of experience, was fatally injured “when he exited the load-haul-dump he was operating without properly securing it. The LHD rolled forward and ran over him.”
Pete Bajo is one of four underground mines in Newmont Mining Corp.’s operations on the Carlin Trend.
“We continue implementing the lessons of this accident to help ensure the personal safety of all our employees and contract partners,” Newmont said in an April 2 email.
The Nov. 11 accident happened just two and a half weeks after another fatality in northeastern Nevada’s gold mines. On Oct. 25 a man was killed when a roof collapsed at the Lee Smith mine, which is operated by Small Mine Development in the Jerritt Canyon complex north of Elko. MSHA released a final report on the Lee Smith fatality last week.
Prior to these two accidents, it had been almost a year since there were any fatalities in Nevada’s mining industry, and there have not been any since.
The MHSA report said that on the afternoon of the accident at the Pete Bajo mine, Natapu drove an LHD into a section of the mine to start cleaning up a heading in preparation for drilling. At 2 p.m. the mine foreman drove through the area and saw the bucket of the LHD was rolled back and against the backfilled face of the heading. The foreman discovered Natapu beneath the left front tire.
The report said investigators concluded that “Upon exiting the operator’s cab the victim did not follow company policies, procedures, and controls by: 1) lowering the bucket to the ground; 2) setting the parking brake; 3) turning the engine off; and 4) chocking the wheels or turning the LHD into the rib. The victim walked down the decline for an unknown reason and the LHD rolled forward, running over him.”
“Investigators examined the steering and transmission joystick controls located on the front-left side of the operator’s seat,” the MSHA report said. “The controls were found to be defective, in that the transmission failed to automatically shift into neutral when the locking lever was engaged. However, this was determined to not be a factor in the accident, and a non-contributory citation was issued.”
The LHD was a R1600G Caterpillar loader, which is about 33 feet long, over eight feet wide and weighs almost 66,000 pounds.
The area where the accident occurred had an average grade of 6.5 percent, and declined toward the backfill face with an average grade of 12 percent, the report said.
A representative of MSHA’s Educational Field and Small Mine Services staff “reviewed the training records for Natapu and found them to be in compliance with MSHA training requirements.”
The MSHA report said the root cause of the accident was that “management policies, procedures, and controls were not followed to ensure the safe parking of unattended mobile equipment.” As a corrective action, “The operator retrained all miners on the company’s policies, procedures, and controls for parking LHD equipment.”
A citation was issued to the mine management for being in violation of the regulation for parking procedures for unattended equipment, which says, “Mobile equipment shall not be left unattended unless the controls are placed in the park position and the parking brake, if provided, is set. When parked on a grade, the wheels or tracks of mobile equipment shall be either chocked or turned into a bank or rib.”