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Regulators: Westmoreland Coal at fault in fatal mining accident - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Regulators: Westmoreland Coal at fault in fatal mining accident near Colstrip

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COLSTRIP - The Westmoreland Coal Company is to blame for a mine worker's fall to his death last spring, according to a federal report released Thursday.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) report states the worker died because the company did not ensure that the mine's truck drivers safely dumped their loads. The company was cited for the violation and likely faces a fine.

According to the report, 62-year old Michael Ramsey died when the Caterpillar 777-F haul truck he was driving backed over the highwall and fell about 150 feet into a giant pit.

The report also states the mine operator, Westmoreland, knew that unsafe dumping was a regular practice at the Rosebud Mine two miles south of Colstrip.

Ramsey's truck contained 98 tons of dirt and rocks went over the highwall at around 4:40 pm on May 6, 2017, according to the MSHA.

The dirt and rocks, or overburden, is removed to get to the coal.

The ground collapsed where the truck was dumping.

Westmoreland's policy states that no equipment shall work on top of the highwall within 25 feet of the edge. Also, trucks should dump short and allow bulldozers pushing the material over the edge.

But federal investigators said those policies were not followed and crews routinely operated equipment within 25 feet of the highwall, and trucks did not dump short.

The MSHA's corrective action includes requirements that.trucks will not dump over the highwall under any circumstances and trucks will dump short and bulldozers will push it over the highwall.

Ramsey had more than 10 years experience as a haul truck operator and had completed annual refresher training just a month before the accident.

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