- Associated Press - Thursday, April 4, 2019

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Federal mine safety officials have cited Newmont Mining Corp. in the death of a Nevada miner who was run over by his truck.

Romney Natapu of Elko was killed in November when he exited the 33-foot-long loader-hauler he was operating without properly securing it at Newmont’s Pete Bajo gold mine in northeast Nevada, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration said.

The agency says the accident occurred because company policies, procedures and controls were not followed to ensure the safe parking of the unattended vehicle

Contrary to management policy, the truck was left on a grade with the engine running, the parking brake wasn’t engaged and the tires weren’t turned at an angle. The company has since retrained all its drivers.

The investigation also determined the steering and transmission joystick controls near the operator’s seat were defective, failing to automatically shift the transmission into neutral when the locking lever was engaged. But they concluded that was not a factor in the accident at the mine in Eureka County north of Carlin.

Natapu, 45, was an underground technician with more than eight years’ experience. His training records showed he was in compliance with federal training requirements.

He was operating the Caterpillar loader that weighed nearly 66,000 pounds (30,000 kilograms) before he exited the cab and walked down the hill for an unknown reason and the truck rolled forward over him, the report said.

The underground mine is one of four the Colorado-based Newmont operates on the gold-rich Carlin Trend in northern Nevada.

Newmont CEO Gary Goldberg briefly acknowledged the loss of Natapu in a “tragic accident” during a webcast in December with financial analysts.

“This serves as a heartbreaking reminder that nothing is more important than safety,” he said, according to a transcript on the company’s web site.

The Elko Daily Free Press first reported the agency’s findings on Tuesday.

Newmont spokeswoman Lisa Becker said in an email to The Associated Press that the company continues to implement “the lessons of this accident to help ensure the personal safety of all our employees and contract partners.”

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