Reality hit the Gold Rush Porcupine Creek gold mines hard in August, when the two mines were closed temporarily due to failing to meet federal training requirements.
According to the Anchorage Daily News (ADN), the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued citations and compliance orders against the Big Nugget Mine, owned by John Schnabel and managed by his grandson Parker Schnabel, and the Jim Nail Placer Mine, operated by “Dakota” Fred Hurt, that resulted in the mines being closed temporarily. In total, 13 citations and two compliance orders were issued against the mines, both featured on the Discovery Channel reality series, Gold Rush.
“Citations,” a spokesman for MSHA told ADN, usually refer to potential dangers and hazards, while “compliance orders” are more serious. The inspections by MSHA were conducted at the mines between Aug. 4 and 8, 2011. By Aug. 23, four of eight complaints directed toward the Big Nugget mine had been resolved, and the mine was allowed to begin operations again. One of seven of the complaints directed toward the Jim Nail Placer Mine were resolved by that date, and mining resumed there, as well, ADN reported.
Complaints against the Big Nugget Mine included violations pertaining to traffic signs warning of hazardous conditions; berms and guardrails; emergency firefighting drills; quarterly employment reports; insulation and fitting of power wires; training plans; and scaffolding. Complaints against the Jim Nail Placer Mine included safe means of access; housekeeping; arrangements for emergency medical assistance; emergency firefighting drills; and training plans.
Of the total complaints, MSHA deemed 10 of the 15 (13 citations, two compliance orders) “significant and substantial” or “reasonably likely to cause an injury severe enough to cause loss of time from work.” However, Parker Schnabel told ADN that he did not agree with the complaints filed against the mine.
"It's ridiculous for a mine with three employees to be held to the same safety standards as a Greens Creek or Red Dog that have hundreds of employees," Schnabel said. Schnabel also indicated that he was sure that the television exposure of the Big Nugget and Jim Nail Placer Mines brought them to the attention of regulators, resulting in the inspections. "We've been operating 25 years and never had a (federal) inspection," he said.
ADN reported that the compliance orders issued were in reference to a federal requirement that miners receive at least 24 hours of safety and related procedures training. This training is to include firefighting, self-rescue, hazard recognition, explosives and first aid. At the time of the ADN report, on Aug. 23, 2011, Parker Schnabel confirmed that he and the employees of the Big Nugget mine had completed 16 hours of classroom training in a State of Alaska safety course.
The Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush airs Fridays at 9 p.m. (ET).
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Video: Discovery Channel, Gold Rush