8 June 2016

Copiah County: a fatal landslide accident in a gravel quarry

Posted by Dave Petley

Copiah County: a fatal landslide accident in a gravel quarry

In Copiah County in Mississippi a landslide on Friday engulfed two quarry workers and an excavator.  The landslide occurred at the Harmony Mine and Mill in Crystal Springs at about 1 pm.  Efforts have been ongoing since to recover their bodies, but this is proving to be an extremely challenging operation.  As of nightfall last night this had not been accomplished.  MS News has a timeline of the events to date – on Sunday efforts were made to recover the excavator using a 230 ton crane, but without success.

WJTV12 has a report about the accident and the recovery works.  This image appears to show the landslide mass and the buried excavator, of which just a small part is visible:

Copiah County landslide

The site of the Copiah County landslide in Mississippi via WJTV12


Based on this image the landslide appears to have been highly fluid – note the lack of surface morphology, suggesting that the landslide as flowed. This is likely to make the recovery operations very difficult as the deposit is probably very weak. Unfortunately there are likely to be be high suction forces, which makes extracting the machine without excavating around it very difficult.

The landslide occurred during very heavy rainfall. Clearly there will need to be some work to try to investigate and understand what happened to generate a landslide like this.