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Western District
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health
Accident Investigation Report
Open Pit Metal Mine

Fatal Powered Haulage Accident

Copeland Construction, Incorporated


Thompson Creek Mining Company (mine)
Thompson Creek Mining Company (company)
Clayton, Custer County, Idaho
ID No. 10-00531

February 13, 1998


Michael J. Drussel
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Bobby R. Caples
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Originating Office:
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Western District Office
2060 Peabody, Suite 610
Vacaville, CA 95687

James M. Salois
District Manager


James Turner, truck driver, age 30, was fatally injured at about 10:30 p.m. on February 13, 1998, when he lost control of the haulage truck he was operating and plowed through a berm at the bottom of the road. He had a total of 3� months mining experience and had worked for two weeks at this mine as a truck driver. Turner had not received training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48.

MSHA was notified of the accident by a telephone call from Steve Meyer, manager of safety for the mining company, at 1:30 a.m. on February 14, 1998. An investigation was started the same day.

The victim was employed by Copeland Construction, Inc.(Copeland), an independent contractor with headquarters in Salmon, Idaho. Copeland had been contracted by the mining company to remove tailings from the downstream toe of the tailings dam, which began in January 1998. Principal operating officials were Daniel Copeland, president, and David Kramer, project superintendent. The company employed 25 employees, working on two crews. The crews alternated one, 12-hour shift a day, seven days a week.

The Thompson Creek Mining Company mine, an open pit molybdenum operation, owned and operated by Thompson Creek Mining Company, was located near Clayton, Custer County, Idaho. Principal operating officials were Kent Watson, vice president and general manager, and Steve Meyer, human resources and safety manager. The mine was normally operated two, 12-hour shifts a day, seven days a week. A total of 220 persons was employed.

Molybdenum ore was mined from multiple benches in the pit. The ore was crushed to size then conveyed to a mill facility where the metal was extracted through flotation. Mill tailings were deposited in a settling pond.

The last regular inspection of this operation was completed on June 11, 1997. Another inspection was conducted in conjunction with this investigation.


The accident occurred on a haulage road which descended along the face of the impoundment dam. The road was about 4,600 feet long, 30 feet wide, and connected Copeland's excavation/loading area at the toe of the north end of the dam to the dump site located 3/8 mile west of the south end of the dam. The average grade at the lower 2,600 feet of the road was 16.6 percent, with some sections up to 20 percent. The road was properly bermed on each side.

The loading area was about 95 feet wide and was provided with a seven-foot berm along its perimeter. Descending trucks made a 90-degree turn into this area.

The vehicle involved in the accident was a 1994 Volvo, Model BM A30, 6X6, 30-ton, rear dump articulated truck, company number 115, owned by Copeland. The truck was equipped with three axles, two under the trailer and one under the tractor. It was normally operated in two-wheel drive, with the front axle on the trailer providing the tractive effort; however, the other axles could be activated to engage four- or six-wheel drive.

Service braking was provided by eight hydraulic calipers. Each wheel on the trailer had one caliper and each tractor wheel had two calipers. There were four air-over-hydraulic actuators in the service brake system, two on the tractor and two on the trailer. One of the actuators on the tractor operated the calipers mounted on the front of the tractor axle brake disc and the other operated the calipers mounted on the rear. One of the actuators on the trailer operated the calipers on the front axle and the other operated those on the rear axle.

The truck was equipped with a hydraulic retarder located in the transmission which provided the retarding force needed for down hill operation. The retarder was controlled by a pedal on the floor, to the left of the steering column. It was necessary for the truck to be in the appropriate gear for the speed and grade on which the machine was operating for the retarder to operate properly.

The daily pre-operational examination sheet for this truck did not list any safety defects prior to the accident.

An inspection of the truck during this investigation revealed that at least 50 per cent of the service brake system was not working at the time of the accident. Additionally, during full applications of the service brake, another 25 per cent of the braking system did not work because of a leaking actuator. The leaking actuator also caused the remaining 25 per cent of the service braking capability to be rapidly reduced during full application of the service brakes.

A wire connecting two warning lights and a buzzer to a switch in one of the machine's four service brake actuators was not connected. If this wire had been connected, the operator would have been warned when he lost the first 25 per cent of service braking.

The investigation also revealed the hydraulic transmission retarder was working, but evidence indicated that the truck was driven down the hill too fast for the retarder to be effective.

The weather was clear and cold with snow covering the ground. The haulage road had been plowed at the start of the shift.


On the day of the accident, James Turner (victim) reported for work at 7:00 p.m., his regular starting time. David Kramer, superintendent, assigned Turner to operate truck number 115 to haul mill tailings from the toe of the dam to the dump area above the dam.

Turner completed eight round trips without incident. At about 10:15 p.m. he was returning empty down the haulage road when he called on his radio, "No Brakes". Two truck drivers were traveling up the grade and noticed that Turner's truck appeared to be gaining speed when he passed them. Jamie Lanning, truck driver, who was waiting at the bottom of the haulage road, stated that the truck was traveling so fast that it was bouncing in the air. The truck plowed through the berm at the bottom of the road and came to rest with the cab upright and the bed overturned.

Lanning alerted Kramer that an accident had occurred and then he and two other equipment operators ran to the truck. Turner was unconscious with his seat belt fastened. He had a pulse, but was not breathing well and was bleeding from a cut on his head. They released his seat belt, which allowed unrestricted breathing, and provided aid until the mine ambulance arrived. Turner was transported to Challis, Idaho where he died while awaiting the arrival of an air ambulance.


The primary cause of the accident was poor maintenance of the braking system on the truck. The speed at which the truck was being driven at the time of the accident may have been a contributing factor.

The following citations/orders were issued during this investigation:

Order No. 7951854 was issued to Copeland Construction, Inc., on February 14, 1998, under provisions of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act, to ensure the safety of persons at this operation until the mine or affected areas could be returned to normal operations.

This order was terminated on March 17, 1998 after it was determined that normal operations could safely be resumed.

Citation No. 7951870 was issued to Copeland Construction, Inc. on February 15, 1998, under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR Part/Section 48.25:

An employee of Copeland Construction, Inc. was fatally injured on February 14, 1998 in a powered haulage accident. The victim had not received the required New Miner Training as specified in their training plan.

The citation was terminated on May 15, 1998.

Citation No.7951872 was issued to Copeland Construction, Inc. on February 18, 1998, under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR Part/Section 56.14101(a)(1):
An employee of Copeland Construction, Inc. was fatally injured on February 14, 1998 in a powered haulage accident. The brakes on the haulage truck were not capable of stopping the truck on the maximum grade it traveled.

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB98M07