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Green Brothers Gravel Company, Inc.
Harmony Mine and Mill Inundation

Crystal Springs, Copiah County, Mississippi
June 3, 2016
No. Killed - 2

MSHA Final Investigation Report  (2.3 Mb)  PDF Format

On June 3, 2016, a 24-year-old haul truck operator, with 9 months of experience, and a 56-year-old hydraulic excavator operator, with 6 years of experience, were killed at a sand and gravel operation.  The two miners were working in a pit next to an abandoned roadway embankment, which partially bound an old pit.  Waste clay and sand had been placed in the old pit for reclamation purposes.  The embankment failed and the tailings and slurry engulfed both miners.

Best Practices
  • Make sure that embankments containing ponds of water, tailings, processing waste, or other fluids are designed and constructed to be stable, and that mining operations are kept a safe distance away.
  • Provide hazard training to all personnel working on or near an impoundment to recognize hazards associated with the impoundment, such as surface cracks or piping, and to recognize adverse conditions and environmental factors that can decrease stability before beginning work.
  • Embankments adjoining workplaces and travelways should be examined weekly or more often if changing ground conditions warrant.
  • Adverse weather, such as heavy rain, may introduce or increase hazardous conditions associated with impoundments, highwalls, and embankments.  Workplace examinations should be increased when these hazards are present to recognize changing conditions.
  • Before beginning work, conduct a workplace exam from as many perspectives as possible (bottom, sides, and top/crest) of ground conditions that could create a hazard to persons and repair, support or remove if found immediately.  Correct hazardous conditions by working from a safe location.

Recovery of buried Copiah County workers continues
Jackson Clarion Ledger, Jackson, Mississippi
June 6, 2016

Recovery efforts at the scene of a gravel pit landslide in Copiah County Friday that buried two workers and the equipment they were operating in gravel and sand continued over the weekend under difficult conditions.

About 25 men are working at the site, according to a statement released by the Mine Safety and Health Administration Sunday night.  Equipment includes a 230-ton crane, a CAT 336 excavator, an air compressor and haulage trucks.

Authorities have had to stabilize the ground leading to where the men were buried and build a road to it to prevent further damage, injuries or casualties.  Mine employees have been used to build the road for crane access.  A construction crew is conducting the crane operations/setup/hookup.

Officials have not released the names of the men involved in the incident.  However, relatives at the scene identified the men as Emmitt Shorter, 24, and James "Dee" Hemphill.  MSHA family liaisons are currently on site with family members.

Shorter's family members told The Clarion-Ledger that he was driving an excavator and Hemphill was driving a truck.

Copiah County Sheriff Harold Jones told The Clarion-Ledger that two men were at the bottom of a pit at Green Brothers Gravel in Crystal Springs around noon Friday when a wall of gravel collapsed on their equipment, burying them under at least 10-12 feet of what has been described as "sludge."

Since that time, authorities have dealt with rain delays and the sheer weight of the materials covering the workers and their equipment as they have tried to figure out how to dig them out of the pit.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, in a statement Sunday, said Green Brothers is leading the recovery efforts with oversight from the MSHA.  The Copiah County EMA and Sheriff's Department are also assisting.

Part of the arm of the excavator was all that could be seen after the landslide.

A crane was brought in Saturday, but crews have been unsuccessful in their efforts to lift the excavator.  The crane will attempt to lift the haulage unit - a CAT articulated truck 730C - which is a lighter unit and closer to the crane.  The company also has been given the go-ahead to bring in pumps to remove water and waste.

Officials said they're trying to make sure that when they hook to the excavator to try to pull it out, they're able to hook to a piece that will not break off.  The weight of the dirt and rocks on top of the equipment makes pulling it free even more difficult.

MSHA said it was notified around noon Friday.  The sheriff's department was first on scene, officials said, and tried to start digging the men out, but additional slides from the rain-soaked material forced them to stop.

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