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Searchers Recover Remains of Cargill Miner Missing After Avery Island Salt Mine Collapse

Search crews in Louisiana have recovered the remains of one miner tragically killed when the roof collapsed at Cargill’s Avery Island salt mine earlier this week.

So far, however, they have been unable to locate a second miner reported missing in the wake of the December 14th tragedy.

Efforts to Find 2nd Miner Continue Around the Clock

The miner’s body was recovered on Tuesday, more than 24 hours after the collapse. Efforts to locate the second missing miner are continuing around the clock with assistance from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (USMHA).

“We are continuing to do everything we can to locate the other team member with whom we have not had contact since the accident,” Cargill said in a statement. “Out of respect for the families, we will not be sharing further details about the employees at this time. Our sympathy is with the family who is mourning the loss of a loved one and we are offering support to them.”

Monday morning’s collapse occurred as 18 miners were working at the Avery Island salt mine, located along Highway 329 South in Iberia Parish, about 30 miles south of Lafayette. While 16 escaped the mine without injury, two were reported unaccounted for.

Did Cargill Safety Violations Contribute to Roof Collapse?

Although the cause of the Avery Island mine collapse remains under investigation, Cargill maintains that “there is no indication that it is related” to safety violations identified in recent federal inspections. The USMHA has cited the Avery Island salt mine more than 50 times this year for violations involving emergency stop devices for conveyors, hazardous waste, unattended equipment, staff training, firefighting equipment, danger signs, safety equipment, safety defect processes, and parking procedures for equipment.

The most recent citation was issued just last month when inspectors found four violations involving self-rescue devices for underground workers. Federal regulations require that a self-rescue device be available for every person in the mine.

All but a few of the citations were issued to Cargill Deicing Technology, which operates the Avery Island mine and produces salt for deicing roads.

Salt Mine Fatalities in Louisiana

Avery Island produces about 2 million tons of salt per year and is one of three salt mines that Cargill operates in the United States.  The mine is owned by a company affiliated with the McIlhenny Company, which produces Tabasco pepper sauce.

The mine employs around 200 people, but only 18 were working when the roof collapsed. Louisiana is home to three other underground salt mines of similar size. Across the state, the industry provides around 500 jobs.

According to federal records, there have been at least six fatalities in Louisiana’s underground salt mines since 1995. One of those deaths occurred at the Avery Island mine when a Cargill equipment operator died in a tractor accident.

The Belle Isle salt mine – another Cargill operation – was the site of the state’s deadliest salt mine disaster in 1968, when a fire claimed the lives of 21 people. An explosion at the same mine tragically killed five in 1979.

The Belle Isle mine was abandoned and intentionally flooded six years after the second fatal incident.

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