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Title: SMC Evacuates Miners Each Shift Before Blasts

By DAN BURKHART Of The Gazette Staff

April 29, 2000

NYE  In the wake of a mishap April 18, Stillwater Mining Co. is evacuating the mine at the end of each shift before detonating underground blasts, a company official said.

Federal mine inspectors conducted an investigation April 26 into the incident that occurred when three workers were caught in smoke from a blast in the west side mine at about the 4,200 to 4,400 foot level, said Chris Allen, vice president for environmental and government affairs.

The three members of a road crew, who were checked by company medical personnel, were not injured, Allen said.

But until weve investigated and can figure out how it happened, were taking the precaution of not having miners underground when we blast, Allen said. Mine supervisors, when the mine is cleared, go underground and do the detonations.

The smoke that enveloped the workers was from nitrogen-based blasting agents detonated for excavation underground, he said. The smoke contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and oxides of nitrogen as well as particulate matter.

The same pathways underground are used for travel and ventilation, Allen said. They were in the pathway where the smoke from the blast poured out before they were away from the blast.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration is expected to cite the company for not providing adequate warning before the blast was initiated, Allen said.

Were also doing our own investigation and with MSHAs recommendations will be putting together a better, safer procedure, he said.

Allen said each shift had about 100 workers underground at the west side adit.

Dan Burkhart can be reached at 328-7133 or at

Copyright ) The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.


-- (, April 29, 2000

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