Posted: Jul 25, 2012 1:54 PM by David Sherman - MTN News
Updated: Jul 25, 2012 1:55 PM
The federal Mine Safety & Health Administration has released its report on the investigation into the death of Michael Duane Roberts, the Great Falls man who died in a sapphire mine accident near Utica in March 2012.
Roberts had taken over operations at the mine in Judith Basin County just a few years ago.
The MSHA report says that when Roberts was working at the mine, he stayed at the home of a friend, Louis Loader.
Loader went to the mine at approximately 2 a.m. on March 20 to check on Roberts because he failed to return to Loader's home.
Loader went underground to the 250 foot level of the mine where he saw a front-end loader with the engine running. The front-end loader was located approximately 50 feet from the face of the drift with the headlights shining toward the working face.
Loader found Roberts covered by rocks and unresponsive. He left the mine and called 911.
Loader also contacted several miners to assist with the recovery. The miners arrived at the mine about 3:40 a.m., traveled underground, recovered Roberts' body, and transported him to the surface.
Judith Basin County Deputy Coroner Dick Brown arrived and pronounced Roberts dead at 6:40 a.m. The cause of death was attributed to severe trauma.
MSHA was notified of the accident later that day by Brown, and initiated an investigation.
MSHA investigators traveled to the mine, made a physical inspection at the accident scene, and reviewed conditions and work procedures relevant to the accident.
The investigation by the MHSA concluded:
A fatal accident occurred at this operation on March 20, 2012, when a mine owner was struck by falling rock. The rock fell 20 feet from the top of the left rib at the 250 foot level. The victim did not examine or test ground conditions after blasting. The mine owner did not take down or support ground conditions that created a hazard to persons before commencing work. The mine owner engaged in aggravated conduct constituting more than ordinary negligence, in that he was an experienced miner and failed to take appropriate action to correct hazardous ground conditions. This violation is an unwarrantable failure to comply with a mandatory standard.
The United States Forest Service, the Judith Basin County Sheriff's office, and the Hubble Law firm assisted with the investigation; click here to read the complete report.
Roberts had recently moved to Montana from Alaska when he took us on a tour of the mine back in 2009 (several photos seen above).
He told us he was seeking a new adventure and was hoping the mine would help him strike it rich.
He renamed the historical site in the Little Belt Mountains the Roberts Yogo Mine.