MSHA issues final report on Colowyo fatality

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued three citations and a “violation” over a July 14, 2012, accident that killed a truck driver at the Colowyo strip mine in Colorado of Colowyo Coal Co. LP.

In this accident, 25-year old Jason Kawcak, a water truck driver, received fatal, blunt force trauma injuries after being ejected and run over by the truck he was operating, said an MSHA final accident report released Jan. 30. Kawcak lost control of his water truck while ascending a 9.6% grade. The truck traveled backwards after the victim lost control. There were no witnesses to the accident.

Said the MSHA report: “The accident occurred because: the victim was not trained in emergency shutdown procedures for this piece of equipment; he did not maintain control of the water truck; a toxicology report for the victim indicated presence of the chemical 1,1 Diflouroethane, which likely impaired him; and the victim was not wearing his seatbelt.”

The citations were for: failure to present/complete task training on emergency procedures for the truck involved in this fatal accident; failure to ensure the victim was following the mine’s program in regards to safety; and the fact the victim was not wearing a seatbelt where a Roll Over Protection System (ROPS) was provided. The violation was for failure to maintain full control of the water truck during operation, which resulted in a fatal accident.

The Colowyo mine is owned and operated by Colowyo Coal, controlled by Western Fuels Association and Tri-State Generation & Transmission. The mine is located 25 miles south of Craig, Colo.

Prior to the accident, the last regular inspection (E01) conducted by MSHA was completed on Feb. 21, 2012. The non-fatal days lost (NFDL) injury incidence rate for the mine through the second quarter of 2012 was 1.57 at the time of the accident, compared to the National NFDL rate of 1.08 for surface mines for the same time period.

Notable is that the Colowyo mine was once an open-market operation controlled by Rio Tinto. But the mine late last decade was running out of economically-recoverable, surface-minable coal, so Rio Tinto cut back its production so the reserves would last for as long as two contracts to supply the Craig power plant would last. Then Tri-State, the operator of Craig, bought the mine in 2011, which is now operated by Western Fuels, a coal producer and supplier to various cooperatives and municipals, including Tri-State.

MSHA data shows that Colowyo produced 2.3 million tons in 2012 and 2.5 million tons in 2011, against a yearly high during the 2000-2012 period of 6.2 million tons in 2006.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.