Report: Underground rock blast kills miner

A preliminary report indicates that rock from an underground blast struck the miner who was killed yesterday (Wednesday) at the Kensington Gold Mine.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration and mine owners Coeur Alaska are investigating the accident and death of 30-year-old Juneau resident Joe Tagaban.

According to MSHA (M-SHAW), Tagaban was working near a previously drilled hole that had not been plugged. The blast sent a concussion of rock through the hole, striking him.

The incident was at the 1260-foot level underground. That section of the mine remains closed while the investigation is underway, according to MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere.

“That closure order covers the affected area of the mine where the accident occurred,” Louviere says. “However, it also prevents the mine operator from conducting any blasting in the mine until we’ve determined it’s safe to do so.”

Louviere says investigators from the MSHA Boise office will arrive at Kensington tomorrow to gather evidence from the scene, conduct interviews and piece together an accident timeline.

Meanwhile, services are pending for Tagaban, who had been working as a Kensington underground miner for about a year.

The accident was the first fatality at the Kensington mine, which is about 45 miles northwest of Juneau. In June, a miner was killed at the Fort Knox Gold Mine near Fairbanks, when he fell two stories. He was supposed to be harnessed to a safety line, but was not wearing the harness at the time of the accident.