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Western District
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

Accident Investigation Report
Underground Metal Mine

Fatal Fall of Back Accident

Bullfrog Mine-Underground
Barrick Bullfrog Inc.
ID No. 26-02184
Beatty, Nye County, Nevada

February 5, 1997


Michael J. Drussel
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Bobby Caples
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Originating Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Western District
3333 Vaca Valley Parkway, Suite 600
Vacaville, CA 95688

James M. Salois
District Manager


Rick Smith, miner, age 35, was fatally injured in a fall of ground at 6:00 a.m., February 5, 1997. Smith had seven years of mining experience, all at this operation. Smith was provided training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48, he completed annual refresher training May 14, 1996.

Timothy Grover, loss control manager, notified MSHA of the accident at 8:00 a.m., February 5, 1997. An investigation was started the same day.

The accident occurred at the Bullfrog-Underground, a gold mine owned and operated by Barrick Bullfrog Inc. of Beatty, Nye County, Nevada. The mine normally operated two 11-hour production shifts per day, seven days a week. There were 243 employees at the mine, 195 underground and 48 on the surface.

Gold was mined by cut and fill. Ore was loaded by LHD's onto haul trucks and transported to the surface for further processing.

Principal operating officials were David L. McClure, general manager, Timothy Arnold, mine superintendent, and Timothy Grover, safety superintendent.

A regular inspection had been completed on January 30, 1997. Following the accident a regular inspection was conducted March 25 through 27, 1997.


Ore was extracted from the ore vein by "end-slice" stoping, a process which involved retreat mining in steps along the ore vein from the footwall of the ore seam to the hanging wall of the seam. The ore was mined from the farthest point on the ore bed to the stope access, along its natural incline of 34 degrees. Cut dimensions typically approximated 20 feet in width and 8 feet in height. Three levels were utilized for ore extraction. Ore was gravity fed to the lowest level where it was moved by LHD muckers to a muck bay. The mining method employed required one or two slab rounds to be blasted so that the jumbo drill could operate effectively. Once blasted, the slabbed-out areas of the stope were bolted with 8-foot Swell-X stabilizers for ground control.

Blasting was accomplished with non-electrically detonated stick powder.

After the stope was completely cleared of broken ore and prepared to control the fill, the cut was backfilled with cement/waste material for ground support.

The main haulage drifts were about 15 feet wide and 13 feet high and the stope access drifts were normally 13 feet by 13 feet. Ground control in these areas was accomplished with 6-foot split set stabilizers and chain link fencing on the back and ribs. Work areas were identified in meters above sea level.

Areas in which hazards existed were either barricaded or posted with warning signs in the access drifts and in other areas where travel could occur.

The scaling bar being used by the victim was a steel pry bar attached to a tubular 1-1/2 inch diameter aluminum 10 foot bar.

The ground fall was about 3.5 tons in total weight. The slab which struck the victim weighed about 1.5 tons and measured 3 feet in width, 1.5 feet in thickness and 6 feet in length. The fall occurred in the hanging wall at the S1-874S level at the top of the fifth end-slice stope cut, near the stope access.

Supervisors routinely visited all underground work areas two times during each shift. These visits were recorded in a log and were accomplished by the hourly relief shifters. Mine shift supervisors were responsible for determining that all miners tagged in and out.

Rank and file lead persons assigned to each shift recorded work place examinations, made work assignments, and were responsible for crew safety.


On the day of the accident, Rick Smith (victim), began work at 7:00 p.m., his regular starting time. He and the other members of the crew received instructions from relief supervisor Dale Cosper and were informed by the crew on the previous shift that two or three truckloads of ore had to be cleaned off the top of the slice at the 874 level prior to backfilling.

The crew began cleaning, mucking, and scaling the 874 level. Smith was using a scaling bar and washing loose ore down the foot wall. Determining that the job was complete, Robert Popp, lead miner, told Smith to ignore a small amount of ore he was wanting to bring down and had the area barricaded against entry. Smith proceeded to the 850 level where he and another miner sat in a man carrier vehicle waiting for another crew member to complete a ramp he was building.

At about 2:45 a.m., Smith left the 850 level in the vehicle. He failed to inform anyone of his destination. At 3:00 a.m., other miners began bolting the stope at the 850 level and continued until the end of the shift.

Dale Cosper, relief shifter, visited the area at about 4:00 a.m., making the second walk-around of his shift. He noticed that Smith was not there but did not ask where he was.

At about 4:40 a.m., the crew began leaving the mine at the end of the shift. Two of the miners inquired as to whether Smith was still underground, and someone indicated that he was. The crew attended a meeting for miners going off and coming on shift during which shift supervisor Cosper noticed that Smith was absent. Cosper searched underground areas of the mine and found Smith in the barricaded area, beneath a slab of ore.

Cosper proceeded to a telephone located at the explosives magazine and called for assistance.

A rescue team was dispatched to the scene. Smith was removed from beneath the slab and resuscitation was attempted without success. The county sheriff/deputy coroner arrived at about 6:15 a.m. and pronounced Smith dead at the accident scene. He was then removed from the mine and transported to a Beatty, Nevada morturary.


The accident resulted from the victim being in an unsafe location in relation to the material he was barring down. A factor relating to this accident was the company's failure to assure that miners did not work alone without a means of communication in the event of an emergency requiring assistance.


Order No.4144177
Issued on February 5, 1997 under the provisions of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act to ensure the safety of persons until completion of the accident investigation. This order was terminated on February 7, 1997.

Citation No.7951054
Issued on February 6, 1997 under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 57.3201.

A miner was scaling in the S1-874S end-cut stope on February 5, 1997. He did not place himself in a safe location to prevent injury from the falling material. He was fatally injured by a fall of ground.

Order No.7951057
Issued on February 6, 1997 under the provisions of Section 104(d)(1) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 57.18025.

A miner, Rick Smith, was allowed to work alone in the S1-874S end-slice stope at the underground mine. Smith could not be heard or seen by the stope crew miners. There had been no attempt to contact Smith from 2:45 a.m. until he was found fatally injured from a fall of ground at 6:15 a.m. This is an unwarrantable failure.

The order was terminated February 7, 1997 after all personnel were indoctorinated on regulations regarding working alone.

/s/ Michael J. Drussel
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

/s/ Bobby Caples
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by: James M. Salois, District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB97M06]