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MSHA - Fatal Investigation Report


Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

Accident Investigation Report
Underground Nonmetal Mine

Fatal Fall of Ground Accident

International Uranium (USA) Corporation
Sunday Mine Complex
Dove Creek, Dolores County, Colorado
I.D. 05-01197

November 4, 1998


Tyrone Goodspeed
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector

John R. King
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Joseph A. Cybulski
Supervisory Mining Engineer

Joseph C. Zelanko
Mining Engineer

Originating Office
Rocky Mountain District
P.O. Box 25367, DFC
Denver, CO 80225-0367

Robert M. Friend
District Manager


Jimmy Duwayne Dial, miner, age 36, was fatally injured at about 9:15 p.m., on November 4, 1998, when he was crushed by a fall of ground. Dial had 11 years mining experience, the past 4 months and 27 days as a miner at this operation. He had received training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48.

MSHA was notified at 11:35 p.m., on the day of the accident by a telephone call from the safety director for the mining company. An investigation was started the following day.

The Sunday Mine Complex, an underground uranium mine, owned and operated by International Uranium (USA) Corporation, was located 35 miles from Dove Creek, Dolores County, Colorado. The principal operating official was Roger B. Smith, general manager of mining operations. The mine was normally operated two, 8-hour shifts a day, five days a week. A total of 34 persons was employed.

The mine was part of the Sunday Complex, which was comprised of several small uranium mines. Stope mining was employed with the location, direction and final width of mine openings dictated by the presence of uranium ore which resulted in a random orientation of headings and varying pillar dimensions.

Faces were drilled with hand-held pneumatic jackleg drills, then loaded and blasted. After blasting, the areas were wet down and manually scaled. Load-Haul-Dump units and trucks were used to transport material to the surface.

The last regular inspection of this operation was completed on September 30, 1998.


The accident occurred in the heading of the 4305 stope work area, which was located in the southwest portion of the West Sunday Mine. Typical drift dimensions were 10 feet high by 12 feet wide. The ore deposit was contained in horizontal sandstone lenses, one to six feet thick, and disseminated throughout sedimentary rock. The ground failure occurred along the upper third of the right rib, from a point about one-foot from the face and extended about 7 feet up the heading. The fallen rock (slab) measured 5 feet by 2-1/2 feet and was 16 inches thick. It weighed about 2,500 pounds.

Full pattern rock bolting was not practiced at the West Sunday Mine, however five-foot-long split set bolts were generally installed three per row in conjunction with an 8 or 10-foot long steel mat. Where ground conditions warranted, 6 or 8-foot long bolts were installed. Spacing between bolt rows was approximately six feet. The back in the 4305 heading was bolted to within five feet of the face. On occasion rock bolts and mats were also used to support the ribs although none were installed in the 4305 heading. Manual scaling was performed before and after mucking. A 5-1/2-foot scaling bar was located in the heading.


On the day of the accident, Jimmy Dial (victim) reported for work at 3:30 p.m., his usual starting time. Harley Gardner, shift boss, assigned Dial and David Wells, partner, to scale, load, haul and dump blasted material at the 4305 stope. The day before the accident, the face had been blasted and a slab round was shot on the right rib of the stope. Work proceeded without incident during the first half of the shift, which included drilling blast holes for the next round. At about 8:30 p.m., after eating lunch, Dial returned to the stope to resume drilling and Wells went to the 4304 stope to work.

While making his regular work area checks, Gardner entered the 4305 stope at about 9:55 p.m. and discovered that a slab had fallen on the victim. The slab fell from the upper right rib area about seven feet from the mine floor, almost directly above where Dial had been drilling a blast hole. Gardner could not detect a pulse. He tried to free Dial, but was unable to do so by himself. Gardner left the stope and summoned two miners working nearby at the 3304 stope. Using prybars, the men moved the slab. Dial was placed on a stretcher and moved from the scene to the main haulageway.

One of the miners reported the accident to personnel in the surface shop, who notified a local health clinic. A San Miguel County Sheriff's Officer/Deputy Coroner intercepted the clinic's radio dispatch call and went to the mine. Dial was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident at 11:00 p.m. Death was attributed to massive head injuries.


The direct cause of the accident was the failure to adequately examine, test, support, and scale loose ground before commencing other work in the stope.


Order No. 4669198 was issued on November 5, 1998, under the provisions of Section 103 (k) of the Mine Act:

A miner was fatally injured at this mine when a large slab fell from the rib while he was drilling on swing shift, November 4, 1998. This order is issued to ensure the safety of persons until the affected area of the mine can be returned to normal operations as determined by an authorized representative of the Secretary.

This order was terminated on November 17, 1998, after it was determined that the mine could return to normal operations.

Citation No. 7917036 was issued on December 2, 1998, under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR, Part 57.3200:

A fatal accident occurred at this mine on November 4, 1998, when a rock 5 feet by 2-1/2 feet by 16 inches thick and weighing approximately 2,500 pounds fell on the miner while he was drilling in the 4305 stope. Loose ground was not taken down or supported before other work commenced in the stope.

This citation was terminated on December 15, 1998. Miners on all shifts were trained on testing and examining for loose ground and how to safely scale loose from the back, ribs, and face.

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB98M45