Cause of quarry slide undetermined

Federal investigators with the Mine Safety and Health Administration have still not determined the cause of a slide last week that sent a 600-foot slab of rock crashing down at a Waynesville rock quarry.

No one was injured in the March 12 slide at the quarry, which dislodged 480,000 tons of earth and buried a drilling rig. The quarry is located in the Allens Creek area and owned by Harrison-APAC, Inc.

Amy Louviere, spokesperson for the federal mine administration, said a closure order is still in effect in the part of the quarry where the slide occurred until the operator comes up with a plan to prevent future slides. The operator could be fined if it is found to be in violation of mining safety regulations. Men had been working in the area earlier that day, but the slide happened after quitting time.

State geologist Rick Wooten said such a large slide in a quarry is an unusual occurrence.

“This is the first major one that I’m aware of in Western North Carolina since I’ve been working out here,” Wooten said. “It’s certainly not a common experience.”

Louviere agreed that despite the nature of quarry operations, slides are not common.

Just last month, the quarry became the only aggregate mine in the state to receive a Mining Star Award for implementing outstanding safety programs.

— By Julia Merchant

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