High danger delays recovery of man killed in mine near Alma
March 12, 2012
PARK COUNTY – Officials involved in a body recovery at Ajax Mine, located in Buckskin Gulch along Mosquito Pass near Alma, have decided to postpone efforts due to extreme danger at the mine.
The man killed has been preliminarily identified by his brother as Kevin Lawrence, the mine owner and a part-time resident of both Park and Lake counties. His death may be the result of a mine corridor collapse, with an investigation and more information necessary. The Ajax Mine is an active gold-prospecting operation.
“All the responsibility for (prospecting) operations are with the mine operator himself,” said Loretta Pineda, the director of the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, a subset of the federal oversight agency.
Those involved in planning for the body recovery include the Park County Sheriff’s Department and Coroner Office, members of the Colorado Front Range Mine Rescue Team and officials with the federal Mining Safety and Health Association. The family is also involved in recovery planning discussions.
According to the Fairplay Flume, the man was mining in the shaft and was discovered Saturday by his brother, who had gone looking for the miner after he’d been out of touch for a week. The mine, located at 11,975 feet, has yielded gold and silver, according to the Colorado Geological Survey.
“We are exceptionally worried about the stability and accessibility of the mine and what the odds of a successful recovery are,” Park County Coroner David Kintz, Jr. said. “We stress that no one should try to go to that mine. The risk of them dying is very significant. We are worried that several people in the community could be interested in doing something like that. We’ve had the best of the best mine teams consult on this. We’ve not come to the decision to postpone this lightly.”
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The Park County Sheriff’s Department has issued a “Do Not Enter” order on the mine for anyone considering it.
Now that the mine has come under the jurisdiction of the Mining Safety and Health Association, the federal agency has also issued a label that prevents anyone entering without explicit permission.
“The risk to life is extremely high,” Kintz said, adding that there’s currently no timeline for action.
Open space officials in Summit County aren’t tasked with handling current mining operations on their land, but they do have several historic mine sites on open space property that pose safety hazards for people or animals falling into old adits or holes.
“Some of these shafts are well over 100 feet deep, and extrication would be very difficult,” Breckenridge Open Space director Scott Reid said. “Subsurface structures could also collapse. We encourage people to stay clear of these holes when they encounter them.”
Summit County and the Town of Breckenridge have engaged the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety to locate and close open mine features throughout the Golden Horseshoe area, for example.
Surveys have taken place in that area the past few years. Reid said physical closures could occur as soon as this summer, with both town and county open space officials agreeing to invest money to help match the state’s investment in the closure effort.
The closures would be preventative, Reid said. He and Summit County Open Space and Trails director Brian Lorch said they don’t know of injury or death surrounding open mines on their land.
Pineda said the Ajax Mine wouldn’t have been closed, as it was a current prospecting operation and safety at the site is the miner’s liability.