September 15, 2011 / 1:57 AM / in 6 years

Coeur's Alaska mine ops still impacted by accident

* Mine ops continue to be impacted by recent fatality

* Partial closure ordered by mine safety officials

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Sept 14 (Reuters) - A portion of Coeur d‘Alene’s (CDE.N) Kensington gold mine in Alaska has been shut in the aftermath of a fatal underground accident last week, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration said Wednesday.

“The partial closure was ordered by the MSHA to allow investigation of the site,” MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere told Reuters.

“It’s just the section where the accident occurred. It’s not the entire mine,” she added.

Louviere said she did not know how long the partial closure would last, but noted that it was required to allow proper investigation of the accident by officials sent to the mine.

“They need to gather up any physical (evidence) at the site where the fatality occurred, and that takes time,” she said. In addition, the mine’s operator must ensure that the area is safe before allowing workers to return, she said.

The Sept. 7 accident killed miner Joe Tagaban, 30, of Juneau, Alaska. He was struck by small rocks and debris that blew through a bore hole during a blasting operation, according to the MSHA’s preliminary report. The accident occurred at the 1,290-foot level of the underground mine.

It was the first fatality at Kensington, a mine that opened in June 2010. The mine employs over 200 people and is expected to produce about 120,000 ounces of gold annually.

Louviere said she did not know if the partial mine closure and investigation would impact overall mine production.

Coeur spokesman Tony Ebersole said he could not comment on potential impact to the mine’s gold output. In accordance with Securities and Exchange Commission regulations, the company reports operating and financial information only on a quarterly basis, he said.

The Kensington mine is about 45 miles north of Juneau. (Reporting by Yereth Rosen, editing by Bernard Orr)

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