Safety Officials Fault Stillwater In Worker Death

HELENA, Mont. (AP) â¿¿ Federal mine safety officials faulted Stillwater Mining Co. on Wednesday for the death of one of its workers who crashed while driving a loader underground last fall.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration concludes in its report that the central Montana mining company did not provide training that specifically addressed the hazards that killed 42-year-old Dale Madson on Oct. 31.

Madson died after his mining loader crashed as he was taking a curve on an underground road. A rock bolt entered the cab and struck him.

Madson had more than three years of mining experience and his training was up to date, investigators found. However, that training was inadequate, the report concluded.

"The accident occurred because management's policies and procedures failed to ensure equipment operators maintained control of mobile equipment while operating equipment," the report said.

The company did not return a message for comment.

The MHSA cited the company in December, then terminated the citation after Stillwater gave all its equipment operators additional training.

Mine safety officials said Stillwater has established new policies and procedures for workers who operate loaders and other mobile equipment. They include operating equipment at reduced speeds in areas with corners, curves or reduced clearance and flashing the vehicle's lights or horns at blind corners.

Stillwater Mining is the country's only producer of platinum and palladium, which are used for jewelry, in catalytic converters for cars and in various industrial applications. The mine near Nye employs about 900 people.

Federal safety records show that Stillwater had 74 significant safety violations during the prior 12 months ending on Sept. 30. Its rate of violations during that period was below average for the underground mining industry.

Madson lived in Bearcreek with his wife, Melodie Betts, and had two teenage daughters in Missoula from a prior marriage.

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