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In NW Mining, Most Deaths Happen Above Ground

Federal mine investigators say a Northwest miner died by electrocution because the company that employed him failed to have proper safety procedures in place. The tragedy happened at a gravel pit last September near Pullman, Wash. Most Northwest mine accidents happen above ground.

Thirty-eight-year-old James Hussey worked for DeAtley Crushing, based in Lewiston, Idaho. According to the new federal report, Hussey died when he tried to fix some wiring that no one realized was still connected to the power source.

A photo from the federal investigation into James Hussey's death shows the site of the accident. Photo courtesy MSHA
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A photo from the federal investigation into James Hussey's death shows the site of the accident. Photo courtesy MSHA

Nationwide, most fatal mine accidents are in coal mines. But in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, the vast majority of mining is like the DeAtley operation: Sand, gravel and stone extraction. And aside from several recent tragedies in Idaho’s underground silver mines, these surface quarries are where most Northwest mine deaths occur -- 11 over last decade.

According to fatality records kept by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, Northwest miners are most often killed by malfunctioning machinery, falling material and -- like James Hussey -- electrical shocks.

DeAtley Crushing issued a statement saying it remains committed to safety. Contrary to the federal findings, the Idaho company says all of its employees, including Hussey, were properly trained.

On the Web:

Federal report on James Hussey’s death:

http://www.msha.gov/fatals/2011/FTL11m09.asp

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.