By LESLEY TOTH
Mille Lacs County Times
An initial report from the Mine Safety and Health Administration reveals the 41-year-old Swanville man who died in a mining accident at Knife River Corp. in Milaca was killed by a shifting wheel assembly.
Scott Armstong, a crusher operator with eight years of experience was killed at the surface stone operation the morning of Dec. 8. A set of wheels was to be placed on a conveyor to transport it from the mine. A front-end loader was being used to lift the conveyor when the loader bucket suddenly dropped, allowing the frame of the conveyor to strike one of the tire assemblies. The tire assembly then shifted, striking the victim.
According to preliminary data from the MSHA, it was the 15th fatality reported in calendar year 2011 in the metal and nonmetal mining industries. As of this date in 2010, there were 20 fatalities reported in these industries.
The report, released last week, indicated 37 miners died in work-related accidents at the nation’s mines in 2011. There were 21 coal mining and 16 metal/nonmetal mining fatalities last year, compared with 48 and 23, respectively, in 2010, making 2011 the year with the second-lowest number of mining deaths since statistics were first recorded in 1910.
Nine workers died in accidents involving machinery, including Armstrong, — six in coal mines and three in metal/nonmetal mines — making it the leading cause of fatal mining accidents.
According to MSHA records, four minor accidents have occurred at the Knife River operations in Milaca, formerly Bauerly Brothers, in the past 10 years, but this was the first fatality.