Officials release more details on fatal Giles County mining accident

Large amount of lime kiln dust buried an excavator with the victim inside, authorities said

Investigators say the person died after getting trapped inside the cab of the excavator

GILES COUNTY, Va.UPDATE - 4:10 p.m. Thursday

Officials have released more details about what led up to the fatal mining accident that happened on Monday afternoon in Giles County.

Authorities said the preliminary investigation found that a large amount of lime kiln dust started moving through a vertical opening to Level 7, where the victim, 50-year-old Stuart Moore, was operating the excavator to remove this material.

The movement of the disrupted dust buried the excavator, leading to the death of Moore, authorities said.

Wednesday night, authorities said the investigation teams sent drones out to collect Lidar data and other data about the physical properties of the material.

According to Tarah Kesterson with the Virginia Department of Energy, lime kiln dust is a by-product of the nearby processing plant and occurs when limestone is heated to create calcium oxide, or quick lime, which is a crucial ingredient for cement.

Kesterson added that the dust is what is left over in the heating process. This material was stored in the underground mine from 1968 until the 1990′s on Levels Two through Seven.

The material is alkaline, so it needs to be removed to prevent any groundwater impacts when the mine closes, turns off its pumping systems and the water fills the void to those storage levels, Kesterson said.

Kesterson told 10 News that the teams are placing the material in approved areas on the surface where it will be covered with soil, and seeded with grass and other vegetation as part of the mine’s larger reclamation plan.

The cause of the dust disruption is still under investigation.

Stay with 10 News as this breaking news story develops


UPDATE - 12:45 p.m. Wednesday

We now know the name of the victim who died in a Giles County mining accident on Monday afternoon.

The Virginia Department of Energy has identified the man as 50-year-old Stuart R. Moore from Oak Hill, West Virginia.

Authorities say he began working at the site in Ripplemead just nine weeks ago.

The mine remains closed Wednesday as the Virginia Department of Energy and the Mining Safety and Health Administration continue their investigations.

Stay with 10 News as this breaking news story develops


UPDATE - 6:45 p.m. Tuesday

Officials have released the age of the person who died in a Giles County mining accident on Monday afternoon.

The victim was 50 years old and had worked at the site for nine weeks, according to Tarah Kesterson with the Virginia Department of Energy.

Kesterson said the accident happened at Level Seven of the underground mine. She was not able to provide information on exactly how deep that is.

Kesterson said her team is currently interviewing witnesses and plans to return to the site of the accident Tuesday night.


ORIGINAL STORY

Investigations are underway to determine what caused a mining accident at the Lhoist Chemical Lime Plant in Giles County.

First responders were called to the plant at 3:58 p.m. on Monday afternoon for the incident.

Initial reports say an excavator tipped over killing one person and injuring another.

Both people were identified to be employees of Gillmann Services Inc., a contractor operating at the facility.

The company declined to comment on the investigation.

Both the Virginia Department of Energy and the Mine Safety and Health Administration are conducting their own investigations of the accident.

While they are doing individual investigations, Tarah Kesterson, Communications Manager for the Virginia Department of Energy, said they are continuing to work side by side with MSHA to figure out the cause.

“Our teams will compare notes to really determine what caused this accident,” Kesterson said.

There have not been any fatalities at the Lhoist plant since 1994. In fact, Kesterson made it clear accidents like this don’t happen often at all.

“We couldn’t even find a serious accident in the last two decades that happened there. So their safety record was pretty impeccable. It was very good. This is not common at all,” Kesterson said.

Right now the agencies are not calling the accident a mining “collapse.” A collapse would entail either the roof or the wall of the mine had come down.

At the time of the accident, miners were said to be moving excess spoiled material out of the mine. Kesterson says her team is not ruling out anything that could have caused the accident.

Mining accidents are taken on a case-by-case scenario and there is no timetable for when the investigation will conclude.


About the Author:

Connor Dietrich joined the 10 News team in June 2022. Originally from Castle Rock, Colorado, he's ready to step away from the Rockies and step into the Blue Ridge scenery.