UPDATE 2:43 p.m. (6/23/2022) — A preliminary investigation from the Virginia Department of Energy released new information on Thursday about the incident that killed a worker at the Lhoist Chemical Lime Plant in Giles County.

According to an investigation, they found a large amount of “lime kiln dust” moving through an opening to level seven where Stuart Moore was working. Moore was operating an excavator loading trucks to remove the material. The material then buried the excavator and led to the death of Moore.

However, investigators are still not sure why the material moved unexpectedly and they are still combing through all factors to determine the exact cause.

Investigators tell WFXR News that Moore worked for a contractor company at the site called Gillman Services. This site has approximately 40 miners with two shifts in the underground mine.

A drone was also brought in and gathered Lidar data Wednesday night to help in the investigation.

Tarah Kesterson with the Virginia Department of Energy says that lime kiln dust, which was found from a nearby processing plant, happens when limestone is heated and creates calcium oxide or quick lime. This is used for making cement.

According to Kesterson, the material, which is alkaline, has been stored underground between levels two through seven from 1968 to the 1990s. She added the material needs to be removed to help prevent any groundwater impacts when the mine is closed, the pumping systems are turned off, and “the water fills the void to those storage levels”.

Investigators say that the material is placed in areas where it is covered with soil and seeded with grass or other vegetation. This is part of the mine’s reclamation plan.

UPDATE 12:22 P.M. (6/22/2022) — The Virginia Department of Energy released the name of the man who was killed in Monday’s incident at the Lhoist Chemical Lime Plant in Giles County.

Tarah Kesterson says the man is 50-year-old Stuart R. Moore from Oak Hill, West Virginia.

Kesterson also tells WFXR News that investigators are at the plant and will be there through Wednesday, June 22 as they finish up all necessary interviews with witnesses. The plant remains closed until further notice.

Kesterson says the last reported death in Virginia’s mineral mining industry was in 2018.

GILES COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — After a deadly mining incident that took the life of a 50-year-old excavator, both inspectors with the Virginia Department of Energy and the Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) were on the ground Tuesday investigating the Lhoist Chemical Lime Plant in Giles County and interviewing witnesses.

A spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Energy, Tarah Kesterson, revealed more about the worker who was killed in the incident on Monday, June 20.

She says that the excavator worked at the site for nine weeks before the incident happened in what is known as “level seven.” Kesterson tells WFXR News that investigators aren’t sure how deep that is within the mine.

Before the incident happened, investigators discovered that workers were removing “spoil material” that was covering up the limestone on Monday. However, there is no indication if this caused the incident.

Kesterson says that all underground operations have been canceled until further notice, but pumps that are removing water from the mines continue to be operational.

The MSHA released the following statement regarding the incident:

“We will issue a preliminary report that is an initial report with a brief description of the accident. A final report will follow when the investigation is complete.”

U.S. Labor Department Spokesperson

The investigation is just getting started, Kesterson walked WFXR News’ Kelsey Jean-Baptiste through the process. Kesterson says the first step is for the investigative team to sweep the mine of any other potential dangers.

“After that, they will take a look at the accident scene and try to go over it and figure out what happened there,” explained Kesterson. “They are also going to assess violations with the mine to see if there is anything that wasn’t in regulation or wasn’t correct that was happening there.”

From there, the Virginia Department of Energy and MSHA will work together to prevent another incident like this from happening again. However, Kesterson says that mining incidents like the one at Lhoist Chemical Lime Plant are not common.

“Safety is our priority in Virginia. In Lhoist, the last fatality that happened in that mine was in 1994,” Kesterson told WFXR News. “We couldn’t even find a serious accident in the last two decades that happened there, so their safety record was pretty impeccable. It was very good, so this is not common at all, especially in Virginia.”

As MSHA and Kesterson continue their investigation into Wednesday, June 22, investigators want to stress that the incident is not being called a “collapse.”