By SCOTT SONNERRENO, Nev. (AP) a¿¿ Federal mine safety regulators have cited the Newmont Mining Corp. for negligence in the death of a northeast Nevada miner who drove his front loader into an open hole where a protection barrier had been removed. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration issued two citations Thursday but hasn't yet decided what if any fines will be leveled as a result of the June death of Corey Vasquez, of South Fork, at Newmont's underground Exodus gold mine 25 miles north of Carlin. The agency said a protective concrete bumper block had been removed less than an hour before the accident to allow the removal of waste material, and warning signs were nearly twice as far away as the required 10 feet. "The accident occurred due to management's failure to ensure that the established standard operating procedures to provide a safe work area near the (hole) were being followed by persons performing the work," MSHA said. "Visual markers, used to identify the opening, had not been put into place to warn of a hazardous condition," the agency said. "Berms, bumper blocks or similar impeding devices were not provided at the edge" of the hole with an opening 40 feet across. Newmont spokeswoman Mary Korpi said the company worked closely with MSHA to investigate the accident and identify the causes. "All Newmont employees have taken the loss of our colleague, Corey Vasquez, personally, and we have been committed to learning and implementing lessons from this tragic accident," Korpi said in a statement Thursday. "We have modified the standard operating procedures related to the posting of signs and streamers and the installation of berms," she said. Vasquez, a 43-year-old mechanic who had been working at the mine for more than two years, fell about 40 feet into the hole with his Caterpillar loader capable of hauling 22,000 pounds of material. He died from blunt force trauma.
Vasquez reported for his normal shift at 6 p.m. June 2 and last was seen sitting on his loader at 8 p.m. At 8:10 p.m., another miner drove by and heard the loader's backup alarm blaring but didn't see the machine or lights. He walked toward the hole and saw the loader's lights down the hole.MSHA said a shift supervisor had notified Vasquez about 7:35 p.m. to build a berm at the opening near the hole because the previous shift had blasted material out of there. The supervisor then instructed another miner to remove the concrete bumper block before Vasquez arrived at the scene. "The shift supervisor engaged in aggravated conduct constituting more than ordinary negligence in that he failed to ensure that all safety precautions were in place prior to beginning work in the area," the agency said.