British Columbia

1 killed, 2 injured in mud rush at Kamloops mine

A contract driller is presumed to have been killed at the New Afton mine while two others have received non-life threatening injuries.

Contract driller presumed dead at the New Afton mine north of Kamloops

A 2014 file photo of the open pit section of the New Afton mine near Kamloops. (New Gold Inc.)

One worker is dead and two others have been injured in an early morning mud rush at the New Afton mine, located 17 kilometres west of Kamloops, B.C.

Mine owner New Gold Inc. said in a media release that a contract driller is presumed to have been killed while two New Gold employees received non-life threatening injuries.

The incident happened at approximately 1:40 a.m. PT. Names of the workers have not been released.

Work at the mine has been suspended and New Gold said RCMP and the provincial safety authorities are on scene.

Kamloops RCMP interim media relations officer Const. Crystal Evelyn said the Tk'emlups Rural RCMP Detachment was called to assist fire and ambulance crews at the mine at 2:24 a.m. PT.

"Right now the details I have are really preliminary, but the BC Coroners Service has been notified by police and we are both investigating," said Evelyn. 

Erik Eberhardt, a professor of geological sciences at UBC, said generally, a mud rush can happen quickly when fine rock particles build up unseen, and then come into contact with water. 

"Effectively they're mining broken rock from underground tunnels or draw points," he said. "With that breakage process there can be a build up of fines — really fine grain material or sand — and if it mixes with water and there's too high a concentration of those fines, it essentially becomes an underground debris flow or mud slide." 

Eberhardt said a mud rush hazard can be hard to predict and manage.

New Afton is an open pit and underground mine that produces gold, silver and copper.

With files from Doug Herbert, Jenifer Norwell