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Mine investigation could take months

| August 3, 2007 12:00 AM

By KYLE McCLELLAN The Western News

The investigation into the underground rockfall that killed a Libby miner Monday at the Troy Mine may not offer conclusive findings for at least another several weeks and possibly several months, according to a spokesperson at the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The agency treats all mining fatalities "very seriously" and tries to conduct the best investigation possible to ensure that disasters like the one at the Troy Mine don't happen, according to MSHA spokesperson Amy Louviere.

"Rockfalls are not unusual but fatalities are," Louviere said.

"The mining environment is constantly changing and shifting and it's not really an unusual event."

Underground operations at the mine have stopped until MSHA officials give approval to recommence.

Michael Ivins, 55, of 1708 Snowshoe Road, died after a rockfall collapsed onto his pickup truck about 600 feet below the surface.

According to some estimates given by MSHA officials, 500 tons of rock buried Ivins in his pickup, which then caught fire.

Ivin's two coworkers who were with him at the time, Josh Peterson and Allen Layer, tried frantically to remove rock covering Ivin's truck, even as it kept crashing down.

No one is yet saying how the fire started, but Peterson was quoted in the Missoulian as saying the hood probably crashed into the battery which caused the battery to short out.

Ivins was a mechanic at the mine. Just before the rockfall, he was adding hydraulic oil and a new hose to the bolter.

The mine's layout is a system of main tunnels and cross-cuts, which are smaller drift tunnels connecting them.

According to Lincoln County Coroner Steve Schnackenberg, Ivins and his truck were found in a dead-end cross-cut where he had tried to turn around.

The Troy Mine, which is owned by Revett Minerals in Spokane Valley, produces 3.2 million ounces of silver and 26 million pounds of copper each year.