By Kelsey Givens
Two people were injured in an explosion in Esmeralda County Thursday afternoon near Bonnie Claire and Highway 267 after explosive charges set by workers reportedly detonated early.
The explosion occurred on an adjacent lot to the Hard Luck Mine Castle after several individuals working to clear the area weren’t able to get away fast enough before the charges went off.
Of the two injured, one suffered less serious injuries while the other was life-flighted from the Bonnie Claire area to a hospital for treatment of his injuries.
The condition of the injured was unknown at press time.
Randy Johnston, owner of the Hard Luck Mine Castle, which is currently for sale, according to its website, said he was at home working in his shop when he heard the explosion.
“I was down at my house, the mine is up the canyon from me about a quarter mile from the house, and they were setting charges and they went off. They went off prematurely, that’s why they weren’t out of the area and they got two of the guys,” he said.
Johnston said he didn’t know if the men worked for any specific company but did say they were working to clear an area to set up a large metal building where the explosion occurred.
“They were just guys that do this for a living out here; they came from Montana. This mine up here, they’re clearing an area to put a big metal building up on the side and they were setting charges up on the side of the hill to clear the rock away,” he said.
According to information from the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the owner of the property where the accident occurred had a crew detonating dynamite in the area to clear a 30×30 foot space.
The Esmeralda County Sheriff’s Office as well as Goldfield Ambulance and Fire and Mercy Air were reportedly called to respond to the site after the incident occurred.
Beatty Ambulance and Fire were also reportedly called to the scene, but told their services were no longer needed before they reached the site of the accident.
MSHA was also reportedly called to the scene to investigate by Esmeralda authorities as well.
An investigator from the Mine Safety and Training Section of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry Office in Carson City was also dispatched to the area to investigate the incident.
Chief Administrative Officer Jeff Bixler said his office had checked its database and it did not appear that the area the crew was working in is an active mine.
“We are going to send someone out to investigate, because we had never heard of this mine before. It’s listed as an abandoned mine on the maps, but not in our database at all as an active mine. It looks like it has not been for many, many years,” he said.
Bixler added that to be considered an active mine, the proper certificates and permits would need to be filed with the appropriate bureaus.
Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman for MSHA, wrote in an email to the Pahrump Valley Times that MSHA has no mine ID associated with the area where the explosion occurred and no indication that mining was going on at the site.
The Hard Luck Mine once operated as an active mine from 1897 until World War II. “Gold claims dating back to 1897 signed by President William McKinley, included the Emerson and Hard Luck Lodes, the two twenty-acre patent claims that comprise the Hard Luck Mine,” according to the website dedicated to the mine.
The mine reportedly never reopened after the war, and is still listed in official databases today as abandoned or closed.