By Erin McIntyre
August 4, 2017 - A worker was killed at the Deserado Mine near Rangely, Colorado on Wednesday night and his body was found under a two-ton trough at a production facility, according to federal officials.
Jason Stevens, 32, of Vernal, Utah, was killed in the accident, according to Rio Blanco County Deputy Coroner Roy Kinney. The U.S. Mine Safety & Health Administration confirmed it is investigating the accident and has an inspector and investigator on site.
The initial investigation shows that Stevens, a surface mechanic, was working alone and didn’t report at the end of his shift, according to Mine Safety & Health Administration spokeswoman Amy Louviere. She said an operator found him at 1:30 a.m. under the trough, which is a type of container used to clean coal. An autopsy is scheduled to determine the exact cause of death, Kinney said.
The accident happened in the mine’s processing plant, which cleans the coal before it’s shipped. “The accident occurred above ground inside the coal processing building, as the worker was attempting to remove a portion of a steel beam,” said a press release issued by Danny Clark, the mine’s human resources manager.
Three other accidents have been documented in 2017 at the mine, according to data collected by the Mine Safety & Health Administration. In those accidents, workers sustained a broken hand and lacerations that required stitches and there was an incident where the tip of a finger was amputated.
The Deserado Mine has received 166 violations from mine inspectors in 2017, and currently owes almost $12,000 in delinquent penalties, according to Mine Safety & Health Administration data. The mine has paid $28,313 in penalties so far this year and has had $50,539 in proposed penalties related to violations, according to the agency. Twenty-two of those violations have been issued since July 1, and include everything from citations for accumulation of combustible materials to not maintaining belt conveyors properly, which is considered a fire hazard.
The mine, operated by Blue Mountain Energy Co., produces bituminous coal from a longwall mine that supplies the Deseret Power Electric Cooperative based in South Jordan, Utah. It’s located in Rio Blanco County northeast of Rangely, in the Uinta Basin.
It’s the first fatality at the mine since October 1996, according to data from the Mine Safety & Health Administration. A 50-year-old surface mechanic, Ted E. Munford, died when he was driving a truck back to the preparation plant, after dumping a load at the refuse pit. According to the accident investigation report, Munford failed to lower the truck bed, hitting it on an overpass. The truck overturned and he was killed in the crash.
The Deserado Mine produced more than 1.5 million tons of coal in 2016, according to Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety. The facility employed approximately 150 miners in 2016 and reported seven injuries to the state in 2016.
Stevens’ death is the eleventh fatality at a coal mine in the country in 2017, according to federal data. There have been 18 fatalities at mines of all types in the U.S. this year to date.