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Gold Mine Employee Trapped 240 Feet Underground in Shaft
Los Angeles Times | Saturday, October 20, 1984, pg. A28
Bad air, narrow mine passages and transportation problems hampered efforts to reach a man trapped since Friday morning in a shaft at the bottom of a century-old gold mine near Acton.
Roy Madsen, apparently overcome by a lack of oxygen, had not been found by late Friday, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman said.
Madsen, 42, who lived and worked at the Governor Mine site in the Antelope Valley, was lost about 240 feet below ground at the bottom of a 30-inch-wide shaft, Deputy Mason Kenny said.
Madsen was investigating a recently reactivated shaft when he noticed a lack of oxygen. After climbing within reach of co-workers, he slipped and fell, Kenney [sic] said. Madsen moaned shortly afterwards at about 9:30 a.m., but nothing has been heard since, a co-worker said.
Fresh air was pumped down the shaft shortly after Madsen fell, but the pumping mechanism failed late in the afternoon and was not replaced for several hours, Kenny said.
Members of the Indian Wells Valley search-and-rescue team, which specializes in mine rescues, were helicoptered to the site from Kern County at mid-afternoon after Sheriff's Department crews were unable to reach the victim.
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Slipped Down Shaft
Lack of Oxygen Slows Hunt for Fallen Miner
By Doug Smith, Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times | Saturday, October 20, 1984, pg. C7
Photo caption: Employees at gold mine near Acton wait at site where fellow worker was trapped more than 200 feet below ground.
The search for a mine employee trapped Friday at the bottom of a century-old gold mine near Acton was hampered by bad air, narrow mine passages and transportation problems, according to a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman.
The employee, apparently overcome by a lack of oxygen, had not been found by late Friday evening.
Roy Madsen, who lived at the mine site, was lost about 240 feet below ground at the bottom of a 30-inch-side shaft, sheriff's spokesman Mason Kenny said. Rescuers have had no contact with the man since he disappeared into the shaft at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Moans Were Heard
Co-workers said Madsen was investigating a recently reactivated sheaft when he noticed a deficiency of oxygen. After climbing within reach of a co-worker, he slipped and fell to the bottom of the mine, Kenny said. Moans were heard shortly afterwards, but nothing had been heard since, his co-workers said.
Madsen, who was turning blue, cried out, "Bad air, bad air," before slipping from the hands of a fellow employee and falling out of sight, said Sheriff's Sgt. Leroy Chastain.
Kenny said some passages leading to Madsen were as narrow as 22 inches.
The rescue effort was temporarily stopped in the early evening, when state and federal inspectors insisted that rescuers replace their oxygen tanks before continuing their search.
Rescue Team Flown In
Co-workers said they pushed a hose connected to a fresh-air pump down the shaft shortly after Madsen fell, Kenny said. But that pump broke down late in the afternoon and was not replaced for several hours.
Members of the Indian Wells Valley Search and Rescue Team, which specializes in mine rescues, were flown to the site in a helicopter in mid-afternoon, after Sheriff's Department crews were unable to reach the victim.
Officials of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration and the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration were at the site.
The mine was reportedly purchased recently by Pac West Development Corp., which has been blasting and exploring it in preparation for a reopening. The mine's owners refused comment on the incident.
The sheriff's spokesman said Madsen was the father of two boys, who live in Lancaster.
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Trapped Miner Found Dead; Body Remains in Shaft
By Janet Rae-Dupree and T.W. McGarry, Times Staff Writers
Los Angeles Times | Sunday, October 21, 1984, pg. C1
Rescue workers came close enough Saturday to a gold miner trapped in an airless shaft to declare him dead, but could not reach the body, leaving him entombed deep beneath the Mojave Desert.
State and federal mine safety officials ordered the mine closed.
Rescuers equipped with oxygen reached a point about 15 feet above the body of Roy Madsen, 42, superintendent of the Governor Mine near Acton in the Antelope Valley. Madsen had collapsed from lack of oxygen Friday morning and fell down a narrow shaft about 240 feet under ground.
"The found no apparent signs of life," said Deputy William Slider, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "The victim's body remains at the mine."
Officials of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration and the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration closed the mine as a public nuisance and ordered it sealed.
Sheriff's deputies were posted as guards, and Slider said the body will remain there "until some alternative solution can be worked out" for removing it, such as digging a new shaft.
The rescue teams — repeatedly force to retreat from the old mine by lack of oxygen and fears that the aged support timbers in its narrow tunnels would collapse — took 32 hours to reach the site.
They could see Madsen lying face down on the broken rock at the bottom of the shaft, Slider said. They could not reach him because the 21-inch-wide shaft was too narrow to admit them with their oxygen tanks on, he added, but they were certain from the position of Madsen's body and lack of movement that he was dead.
The body was sighted by members of the Indian Wells Rescue team of the Kern County Sheriff's Department, who were among the 26-member force mobilized to find Madsen. The others included Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies and a team from American Borate, a Death Valley mining company.
Madsen was "a hell of a boss, more of a friend than a boss," said Don Duhart, one of the miners who gathered at the mine entrance to learn his fate. Duhart described him as "a real safety freak," who lectured his men daily on safety concerns.
Madsen's brother Joel, 22, said Madsen had been a miner for 19 years and had two children by a former wife.
Madsen was working with two other miners Friday morning in the gold and silver mine about 40 miles north of Los Angeles, which miners said dates back to the 19th Century, exploring the possibility of reopening some of the older diggings.
He had lowered his oxygen pack on a rope into the 40-foot-deep shaft because the equipment was cumbersome to wear and then began descending a ladder when he yelled, "Bad air in the vein," collapsed and fell down the shaft.
The first rescue attempt Friday was halted because of fears that the sagging timbers supporting the roof of a 2-foot-wide tunnel in the old mine would collapse and bury the rescuers. Workers spent the night strengthening the supports.
Even rescuers equipped with breathing apparatus had to retreat from the mine several times to have fresh air pumped into the shafts from the surface, because they needed enough good air in the tunnels to survive without equipment for short periods of time.
Some of the tunnels underground are so narrow, Slider said, that the rescuers had to take out their mouthpieces to move. He compared it to crawling through a sewer pipe.
The air in the mine contained less than 13% oxygen and the rescuers needed at least 20% to survive for short periods of time without their apparatus, he said.
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Trapped Miner Found Dead
Santa Cruz Sentinel | Sunday, October 21, 1984
Acton, Calif. (AP) — Rescue workers squeezed (through) a narrow gold mine shaft filled with poison gas Saturday and found the body of a trapped miner who fell to the bottom after being overcome by the fumes, authorities said.
"He has been declared dead, and his body will be left where he is for the time being," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Steve Lee said of Roy Madsen, 42. "State and federal authorities made the decision to declare him dead based on observations by the Kern County team."
The announcement came after rescuers got to within 10 feet of Madsen's still body but were stymied on ways to lift him back to the surface, authorities said.
Two members of the Kern County Sheriff's Department Mine and Surface Rescue Team almost reached the miner during a third descent by rescuers since he fell about 175 feet Friday morning.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Finley said the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration ordered the mine sealed until the body can be removed.
"The rescue team and equipment are all out of the mine," Deputy Wes Slider said. "The mine has been sealed."
Madsen had not been heard from for more than 24 hours after he tried to struggle out of the shaft but fell back to the bottom after shouting "bad air" to two companions, Finley said earlier.
An air compressor pumped oxygen into the shaft of The Governor mine, located in the desert 30 miles north of Los Angeles while rescue efforts were underway.
The composition of the gas in the mine was not known. Poisonous gases such as methane frequently collect in old mines.
The first attempt to reach Madsen failed Friday when rescuers' air tanks ran out of oxygen, and 26 search and rescue team members from three agencies backed out of the muck-filled shaft Saturday morning because of bad air, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Wes Slider said.
Two rescuers returned to the mine later Saturday, climbing down a 65-foot causeway leading to the shaft where Madsen was believed trapped, after more fresh air was pumped into the shaft, Slider said.
Slider said some parts of the passage about 200 feet underground are less than 21 inches across, and members of the rescue party were forced to remove their respirators, including mouthpieces, to get through.
Slider said the gas composition wasn't known, but it was less than 13 percent oxygen, and the rescue team members need at least 20 percent oxygen for temporary periods of breathing without the air packs.
Madsen and his two partners, who operated the mine, had been exploding a newly excavated artery when the accident occurred. "They've been looking for gold and other trace minerals like silver and copper," said Sgt. Ron Worley.
Madsen had lowered his oxygen pack on a rope into the shaft because it was too cumbersome to wear, and then lowered himself down on a ladder, Slider said.
"He yelled out, 'Bad air,' and started to surface," Slider said. "He was within three feet of (two) co-workers. They said they could see he was turning blue" before he was overcome by the gas.
He then tumbled down to the bottom of the shaft. His two co-workers, on a ledge 40 feet above, heard him "moan and groan," Slider said.
They threw him an air line from a compressor, but he apparently was unconscious and unable to grab it, said Deputy Mason Kinney.
The compressor malfunctioned at about 4 p.m. Friday, Kinney said, and several hours elapsed before another compressor began pumping air into the shaft, which is part of a labyrinth of passages in the old mine.
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Dead Miner Failed to Wear Safety Line
Los Angeles Times | Monday, October 22, 1984, pg. SD2
Miner Roy Madsen failed to wear a safety line that could have been used to retrieve him from the gas-filled shaft where he died during a 34-hour rescue effort, the mine's owner said. Madsen, 42, was declared dead after he did not respond to the calls of rescuers who managed to get within 15 feet of his body at the Governor Mine in the Antelope Valley. Allen Herron, owner of Pac West Development Co., said Madsen, who had 19 years of mining experience, "had the proper belt and the safety lines were there, but for some reason he didn't attach them to himself." The body, located about 240 feet below ground, will not be recovered for at least several weeks, and the 100-year-old gold and silver mine has been padlocked and sealed by authorities.
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Gold Mine Closed Until Body Removed
The Bryan (Ohio) Times | Monday, October 22, 1984
Acton, Calif. (UPI) — Officials sealed a 100-year-old Mojave Desert gold mine until they can find a way to safely remove the body of a miner who was overcome by bad air and fell 40 feet down a narrow shaft.
Two mine safety experts inched into the two-foot-wide shaft within 40 feet of Roy Madsen's body Saturday night, but were unable to recover it, sheriff's spokesman Wes Slider said.
The rescuers spotted Madsen and determined he was dead from the position of his body and the lack of movement, Slider said.
"His body was face down in the muck, a soft soil that was likened to cement," said Slider. "It was a terrible thing."
Officials padlocked the mine entrance Saturday, saying the lack of oxygen and the possibility of a cave-in made further recovery efforts too dangerous.
Madsen, 42, of Acton, was exploring a new vein of gold in the recently reopened Governor Mine when he succumbed to a lack of oxygen Friday morning and fell 40 feet down the narrow shaft.
Fellow miner Don Duhart described Madsen as "more of a friend than a boss" and "a real safety freak" who lectured his men daily on safety concerns.
The Governor Mine, a gold and silver mine about 30 miles [sic] north of downtown Los Angeles, was reopened about a year ago by the Pac West Development Corp.
Federal and state safety officials sealed the mine after the two-day rescue effort failed and said a new 240-foot shaft might have to be dug to bring the body out, Slider said.
"Cal OSHA (the state Office of Safety and Health Administration) and the Mine Safety Health Administration sealed the mine," Slider said. "They closed it with an iron door, padlocked it and seals were affixed by both agencies.
"It was deemed to be extremely hazardous," he said.
During the rescue, the oxygen content of the air inside the mine was "so low it could be lethal," Slider said.
Slider said Madsen and two other miners were about 300 feet from the nearest entrance to the cavern and nearly 240 feet down when he yelled out, "Bad air in the vein."
"He was turning blue," Slider said, "and as they reached for him he slipped away and fell back down."
The other two men got out safely.
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Mine Experts Say Fatal Fall Occurred at Unsafe Depth
By James Quinn, Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times | Tuesday, October 23, 1984
The mine superintendent who fell to his death in a century-old gold and silver mine in Acton was working more than 100 feet below areas approved for occupancy, state and federal mine safety officials said Monday.
The allegation was made following a hearing in Palmdale at which state officials ordered the historic Governor Mine close indefinitely because of hazards created during efforts to rescue 42-year-old Roy Madsen, whose motionless body was spotted Saturday 240 feet below ground.
Madsen was working "at least 130 and possibly 200 feet below areas approved by us" for the Acton mine, situated 20 miles northeast of Sylmar, said Byron Ishkanian, principal mine engineer for the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Possible Violations Investigated
"No one was supposed to go into that old area of the mine where the accident occurred," said Jerald Drussel, regional supervisor for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.
The federal and state agencies, both of which have jurisdiction over mine safety, are investigating reports that, besides being in an off-limits area, Madsen failed to wear a safety line and did not carry breathing apparatus, both of which are required.
Such violations could lead to fines for Pac West Development Corp., the Palmdale firm that owns the mine, safety officials said.
The closure order, issued Monday, was based on shifting of timbers during the 34-hour effort to rescue Madsen, said Vernon Larson, a state senior mine safety engineer.
Body at Bottom of Shaft
Fresh air pumped into the mine during the rescue effort dried out damp soil inside the mine, shifting by as much as 12 inches some of the timbers that support tunnels, Larson said.
"The whole mine seems to be in danger of collapsing," said Drussel.
Efforts to save Madsen were called off late Saturday when rescuers climbed down 240 feet and spotted the superintendent's body 15 feet below them, face down in mud at the base of a two-foot-wide shaft.
The mine was ordered sealed Saturday night, but under state law the mine's owner was entitled to a hearing on the order within 48 hours, Larson said.
Allen Herron, Pac West owner, who bought the mine two years ago, raised no objections to the closure order at the hearing Monday and gave no indication what his plans were for the mine, the mine engineer said. State officials said they know of no plans to retrieve the body.
Efforts to reach Herron for comment later Monday were unsuccessful.
Earlier, Herron said that Madsen, who he said had nearly two decades of minind experience, had the required safety rope and harness with him, "but for some reason he didn't attach them to himself."
Since Herron reopened the Governor Mine a year ago to explore the possibility of resuming gold production, federal and state safety agencies each have inspected it four times.
"The mine owner had been doing a good job of complying with our regulations related to safety," said the state's Ishkanian.
Drussel said he recalled inspectors issuing several citations to the mine owner for "minor violations," all of which, he said, resulted in corrective action.
"The mine was in pretty good shape from a safety viewpoint," said Drussel.
Ishkanian said old mines such as the Governor present severe hazards because of the 19th-century practice of using uncompacted fill dirt to support tunnels and timbers.
"In many ways, you're better off starting with virgin soil and digging your own tunnels," he said.
Investigators said they had not yet determined whether Madsen was overcome by toxic fumes or lack of oxygen when he fell from a ladder to his death.
Cliffton Gray, state geologist for Southern California, said the Governor Mine, first opened in 1882, yielded more than $1.5 million in gold before production ceased in 1942, making it Southern California's most productive gold mine.
He said that a half-dozen other mines near Acton and Agua Dulce are being explored for possible resumption of production, "but at the moment, I'm nto aware of any producing mines in Southern California."
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Owner Defends Mine Operation; Plans to Reopen and Produce Gold
By James Quinn, Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times | Thursday, October 25, 1984, pg. V-A14
The owner of an Acton gold mine in which a minder fell to his death said Wednesday that he expects to reopen the century-old mine within four months and eventually hopes to produce "great quantities" of gold there.
Allen Herron, president of Pac West Development Corp., disagreed with state officials who suggested that there was evidence of widespread inadequate oxygen in the Governor Mine and who said the victim, Roy Madsen, was in an area not approved for occupancy.
The mine owner repeated his charge that Madsen died because he failed to observe normal safety precautions, "apparently because he was supremely confident and was very anxious. It can be very exciting to a miner to go into a new area."
Efforts to save the 42-year-old mine superintendent were called off late Saturday when rescuers climbed 225 feet below ground and spotted Madsen's motionless body 15 feet below them at the base of a two-foot-wide shaft.
Plans to Retrieve Body
Herron said he was studying several plans to retrieve Madsen's body, but could not say how or when the effort would be made.
Herron said he is continuing with plans to produce gold from the mine. He said Madsen and others exploring the mine during the past year had uncovered gold deposits as dense as 30 ounces per ton of rock.
"It's a rule of thumb that you need a quarter-ounce per ton to operate profitably," he said. "There are great quantities of gold there."
The mine owner said oxygen readings taken by rescuers are unreliable indicators of prior conditions because fresh air pumped into the mine during the 34-hour rescue effort "almost certainly stirred up pockets of bad air. That's what happenes when you pump air in, and that is why miners are very reluctant to pump air into a mine unless it's an emergency situation."
Herron said that old mines frequently contain pockets of air with inadequate oxygen, and he suggested that Madsen encountered such an isolated pocket before shouting to co-workers, "Bad air! Bad air!" and falling off a ladder to his death.
Victim Carried Oxygen Meter
Madsen, who had an oxygen meter in his pocket, would not have remained long in an area without sufficient oxygen, as suggested by some state officials, the mine owner said.
Herron also took issue with a statement by Byron Ishkanian, principal mine engineer for the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration, who said Madsen was working "at least 130 feet and possibly 200 feet below areas approved by us."
The mine owner said he notified state and federal mine officials "more than a month ago of plans to explore down to the 240-foot level, and we gave them our complete flight plan for the operation, so to speak.
"The law does not require us to get their approval, only to notify them in advance and observe safety regulations."
Ishkanian could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Despite being overcome, Madsen would have survived had he observed any of four standard safety rules, Herron said. He said the mine superintendent did not attach a safety rope to his body, was not carrying an oxygen bottle, did not stay in view of at least two co-workers when exploring new areas and failed to have anyone at the top of the mine to turn on a pump connected to an air hose he took into the mine.
Herron said the [mine], inactive for 40 years before he bought it in 1982, is 1,200 feet deep. He plans to explore 240 feet before starting production.
He said he will eventually seal off the old shaft, extracting the gold through two new shafts he plans to drill near the old entrance.
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U.S. Panel Cites Closed Gold Mine
By John Nielsen, Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times | Thursday, December 6, 1984, pg. V-A8
The operators of an Acton gold mine where a miner fell to his death in October have been cited for two violations of federal mine safety laws, investigators from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration said Wednesday.
Allen Herron, owner of the mine, said he would appeal the citations, which could result in fines ranging from $20 to $50,000. The amount of the fines will be worked out in negotiations between Herron and the federal agency's assessment office.
The 102-year-old Governor Mine has been closed since October, when an employee collecting ore samples was fatally injured after falling down a shaft about 240 feet below the surface of the mine. Rescue teams were never able to reach the body of Roy Madsen, a superintendent who lived at the mine, about 20 miles northeast of Sylmar.
Besides the federal study, investigators from the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the accident, which apparently occurred when Madsen passed out and slipped off a narrow ledge.
The federal report accused Herron's company, Pac West Development Co. of Palmdale, of violating provisions of the federal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1977. It said the company was cited for allowing workers to enter oxygen-deficient areas of the mine and for failing to maintain adequate structural supports in some parts of the mine.
The state's report will not be ready for at least a month, a spokesman for Cal-OSHA said.
Gene Crowley, a federal mine inspector, said he and other investigators found no evidence of criminal violations by supervisors at the Acton mine, which has shafts as deep as 1,200 feet.
"We didn't' recommend anything beyond a fine," he said, adding that the amounts of the mines were not specified in the report.
Crowley said the federal report was complicated by the lack of an autopsy report on Madsen. He said investigators presumed that Madsen fell after lowering himself into an abandoned mine shaft that had pockets of oxygen-deficient air.
"We talked to the people who were down there when he fell," Crowley said. "They say he had an oxygen mask and a safety rope, but he took them off" before falling.
Crowley said investigators were also critical of weak supports discovered in the mine. Although the supports did not contribute to Madsen's fall, they would have to be repaired before the mine could be reopened.
Herron had not seen the report Wednesday, but said he disagreed with its principal findings, as described to him by a reporter. Although the report said that tests showed oxygen levels in parts of the mine were well below federal standards, Herron said he was not convinced that Madsen fell after breathing "bad air."
'Pockets of Bad Air'
"He could have had a heart attack," Herron said, noting the lack of an autopsy. "There were pockets of bad air in the mine, but we don't know" if Madsen was working in one when he fell.
Herron said he thought Madsen was entirely responsible for the accident.
"There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about it," he said. "But what do you do? The man went out on the end of a plank and sawed the plank off. … It would never have happened if he'd have followed procedures," he said, referring to the indication that Madsen was not suing his safety equipment.
Herron said he is proceeding with plans to reopen the Governor Mine by February. Pending federal and state approval, he said, he plans to abandon older shafts at the bottom of the mine, replacing them with new tunnels.
If the mine is reopened, Herron said, he plans to recover Madsen's body by blasting into the bottom of the abandoned shaft from a newly built parallel tunnel.
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In Wake of Fatal Fall
Mine Cited for 6 Violations of Safety Rules
By John Nielsen, Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times | Saturday, January 19, 1985, pg. V-A8
The owners of the 102-year-odl Acton gold mine where a man fell to his death in October have been cited for six "serious and willful" violations of state mine-safety regulations.
In citing Pac-West Development Co. Inc., the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal-OSHA, said the company had been told by state safety officials a month before the accident that the mine was unsafe.
Vern Larson, senior safety engineer with Cal-OSHA's mining and tunneling unit, said that it will probably be at least a week before the agency decides what financial penalties to impose but that the amount would probably be from $30,000 to $60,000.
Like a federal study issued in December, the state citations do not hold mine owner Allen Herron of Palmdale directly responsible for the death of superintendent Roy Madsen, 42. Madsen died while exploring an abandoned shaft near the bottom of the mine, about 20 miles northeast of Sylmar.
Inspection Before Accident Used
Unlike the federal report, however, the Cal-OSHA citations are based partly on an inspection that was made before the accident.
After the Sept. 11 inspection, a Cal-OSHA official told Herron of 12 violations of state mining laws, Larson said.
Larson said those violations included failure to maintain proper oxygen levels in the mine and failure to properly support some of the mine shafts.
Madsen reportedly called out "bad air, bad air" before passing out and falling to the bottom of the shaft. Attempts to rescue him were hampered in part by fear that weak support beams in parts of the mine might collapse under heavy traffic.
A spokesman for the Pac-West company in Palmdale said Herron was out of town this weekend and not available for comment.
Cal-OSHA released two sets of citations last week. The first, based on the September inspection, recommended that Pac-West be fined a total of $625. Violations listed included failure to maintain an "adequate" map of the mine, failure to develop and emergency rescue plan and failure to install adequate ventilation equipment. Larson said the Cal-OSHA official did not order Herron to close the mine.
Reopening of Mine Planned
The mine was closed in October after the accident. Herron plans to reopen it.
The second, more severe set of citations followed Madsen's death. After inspecting the mine a second time, Cal-OSHA cited Pac-West for failing to tell the state of "serious problems of ground instability at the mine," for maintaining inadequate safety equipment, for failing to build an access tunnel to older parts of the mine, for failing to build a passage large enough for a rescue team, for failing to circulate air in parts of the mine and for allowing mine employees to enter unsafe areas.
In a December report, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration cited Herron for allowing workers to enter oxygen-deficient areas of the mine and for failing to maintain adequate structural supports in some parts of the mine. Fines for those violations have not yet been determined.
Herron has said he will appeal the federal citations.
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Site of Fatal Accident
Acton Mine Owner Fined $60,000
By David Wharton, Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times | Tuesday, February 12, 1985, pg. V-A8
The operators of an Acton gold mine where a minder fell to his death in October have been fined $60,000 by state officials who said that compliance with earlier state citations might have prevented the death.
The fines levied against Pac West Development Co. of Palmdale resulted from a January investigation of the Governor Mine that found six "serious and willful" violations of state mine-safety regulations, said Vern Larson, a senior engineer for the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The most serious of the violations involved failures to adequately ventilate the mine and provide an improved emergency rescue plan, two deficiencies Pac West was cited for and told to correct after a September inspection that uncovered 10 other violations, Larson said.
"They not only didn't correct them; they diametrically opposed them" by sending men to work in the mine without improving the deficiencies, Larson said.
A lack of sufficient oxygen was blamed for the death of Roy Madsen, a 42-year-old mine superintendent who was collecting ore samples from 130 to 200 feet below the mine's entrance when he reportedly descended into a pocket of "bad air," passed out and fell from a narrow ledge.
Rescuers attempting to get at Madsen's body 240 feet below ground were driven back when fresh air being pumped into the mine dried out damp soil and caused some of the timbers supporting the tunnel to shift, Larson said, making the mine too dangerous for further rescue attempts.
The Governor Mine has been sealed by the state since the accident.
Allen Herron, president of Pac West, said he will appeal the fines to Cal-OSHA officials, alleging that he received the September citations and notice of a $625 fine accompanying them only three weeks ago. He said that until then, he was unaware of improvements the state wanted made in the mine.
Herron said he gave state officials a guided tour through the mine a month before the accident and submitted to them detailed plans of what his workers, including Madsen, would be doing in the mine.
"I never heard anything from them about improvements," Herron said. "Now there is the accident, and I think the state is trying to make a big deal out of this as a warning to others."
Madsen's death, he said, should not be attributed to poor conditions in the mine, but instead to Madsen's failure to follow safety procedures. Investigators determined that the miner had taken off his oxygen mask and safety rope just before falling.
Pac West still faces federal fines resulting from a December investigation that cited the mine operators for violating two federal mine-safety laws. Although investigators found violations of both state regulations and federal law, no evidence of criminal violations was found.
The Governor Mine was opened in 1882 and became Southern California's most productive gold mine, yielding more than $1.5 million in gold before it closed in 1942. Pac West bought the mine and a year ago began preparing it for production.
Since its reopening, federal and state investigators had inspected it four times, each time finding "minor violations," said Jerald Drussel, a federal safety investigator.
Herron said that he has been doing his best to comply with government citations.
"You can't walk into a mine and make it perfect," Herron said. "But you can work on it to make it as safe as possible. That's what we've been doing."
Herron said that later this week he will present to state and federal authorities a detailed plan to improve and reopen the mine. He said he plans to abandon older shafts at the bottom of the mine and replace them with new tunnels.
News stories courtesy of Tricia Lemon Putnam.