AN investigation is under way following the death of a young miner killed by a falling rock.

Darren Compton, 24, was operating machinery at the Cleveland Potash mine when disaster struck.

Nine inspectors from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Mines were at the site, in Boulby, east Cleveland, yesterday to carry out investigations into the accident.

Mr Compton lived with his parents, Gillian and Robert, and brother, Lee.

Yesterday, from their home in Brotton, they told The Northern Echo they were still coming to terms with their sudden loss.

Mrs Compton said: "It's still too early for us to say anything."

The miner, who had worked for Cleveland Potash Limited for two years, died on Thursday afternoon.

A spokesman for the company said: "It is understood that Darren was working as part of a mine production team and was operating equipment supporting a recently-mined roadway.

"He was fatally injured as the result of a fall of rock from the side wall of the roadway."

Graham Clarke, managing director, expressed deep sympathy for Darren's family and friends and stressed that the company would do everything possible to support them.

He said yesterday: "As a mark of respect, underground working at the mine has been halted today and we are providing all possible co-operation and assistance.

"Everyone involved with the company is deeply saddened by this tragic incident.

"Obviously, in an industry such as ours safety is paramount and we have a good track record as one of the safest mines in the UK."

Cleveland Potash is the UK's only potash mine, producing more than a million tons of potash and more than half-a-million tons of salt every year.

Opened in 1972, it employs about 850 people and is the deepest mine in the UK - with the shaft reaching a depth of 1,100 metres.

In recent years, an electrician was taken to hospital with severe burns while carrying out routine maintenance work on the mine surface in 2001.

In 2003, a lorry driver was airlifted to hospital after being trapped under an overturned vehicle for about an hour at the mine.