Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Crandall Canyon mine

Mine collapse: Six reported missing in Emery County
By Russ RizzoThe Salt Lake Tribune
August 6, 2007
A rescue crew is working to free six workers who were trapped when a mine collapsed in Emery County's Huntington Canyon early this morning.
The mine, operated by Utah American Energy, collapsed just before 3 a.m., around the same time as an 4.0-magnitude earthquake, said Mary Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management. Authorities are unsure if the earthquake caused the collapse or the other way around, Wilson said, because mine collapses sometimes cause earthquakes.
"They don't know if it was the chicken or the egg," Wilson said.
A rescue team from a nearby mine responded and continues to work to find the workers, Wilson said about 9:30 a.m.
The Price office of Utah American Energy, which operates the mine, had no information to release except to confirm there had been an unspecified incident at its Genwal mine.
Emery County has a history of past mine disasters. In 2000, two men died during an explosion at the Willow Creek mine; in 1984, a fire in the Wilberg mine killed 27; a 1924 explosion took 172 lives at the Castle Gate mine, and the Scofield mine disaster of 1900 claimed 200.
___________________________________________________________United States Mine Rescue Association

Six Coal Miners Trapped in Utah, Murray Energy Says
Bloomberg - USA
By Christopher Martin
August 6, 2007

Six workers were trapped underground in a Utah coal mine after a roof collapse this morning and rescue crews were working to free them.
The miners were located about four miles from the entrance of mine, which is owned by closely held coal producer Murray Energy Corp. The workers had not yet responded to radio calls from rescuers, Mike McKown, a spokesman for Murray, based in Pepper Pike, Ohio, said today in a phone interview.
"We're working on three ways to get them out safely,'' McKown said.
The force of the collapse was picked up by seismographs, prompting some initial reports that the accident had been caused by a weak earthquake.
Seismic activity near the mine may have been triggered by a roof collapse within it, rather than a separate earthquake causing the roof to fall, said Walter Arabasz, director of the University of Utah seismograph stations. The rumblings he observed were ``consistent with a mine-type collapse.''
Although he doesn't have all the information needed, he said it appears there was a roof-floor closure or possibly a pillar failure at the mine that caused the roof and floor to flex. He's still waiting for an accurate timeline on the mine collapse.
"Since 1978, we have recorded approximately 20 mining- related earthquakes of 3.0 or above in that area of Utah,'' Arabasz said. This morning's tremble, with a 4.0 magnitude at its epicenter, was considered a ``light'' earthquake.
Rescue Help
Rocky Mountain Power, a unit of PacifiCorp that owns a nearby coal mine, sent a rescue team and heavy equipment to the scene to help, said spokesman Jeff Hymas. No damage was recorded at their nearby Deer Creek mine, he said.
Murray's Crandall Canyon mine is part of its Genwal complex, which produced 604,975 tons of coal last year, according to the U.S. Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Mine safety regulators were notified of the accident at 5:40 a.m. New York time and have two inspectors inside the mine, said Dirk Fillpot, a spokesman for the administration.
Rescue teams were within 2,500 feet of where the trapped miners had planned to be working, about four miles from the mouth of the underground facility, Fillpot said in an interview.
Ten coal-mine workers have died in job-site accidents so far this year, a record low for this time of year, according to mine safety data.
___________________________________________________________United States Mine Rescue Association

Seismic Activity Stops Mine Rescue Try
Lompoc Record - Lompoc,CA,USA
August 8, 2007
HUNTINGTON, Utah - Seismic activity "totally shut down" efforts to reach six miners trapped below ground, causing a cave-in that wiped out all the work done in the past day, a mine executive said Tuesday.
"We are back to square one underground," said Robert E. Murray, chairman of Murray Energy Corp., owner of the Crandall Canyon mine.
Still, "we should know within 48 to 72 hours the status of those trapped miners," Murray said. Crews are drilling two holes into the mountain in an effort to communicate with the miners _ provided they are still alive.
Unstable conditions below ground thwarted rescuers' efforts to break through to the miners, who have been trapped 1,500 feet below the surface for nearly two days, Murray said.
The seismic activity and other factors "have totally shut down our rescue efforts underground," he said.
Rescuers were able to get within 1,700 feet Monday but had advanced only 310 feet more since then, Murray said earlier Tuesday. The seismic shocks caused cave-ins that blocked even that progress, he said.
Rescue teams are waiting for the seismic activity to subside before going back in, Murray said. Crews are getting their supplies back in order and will be ready to start over again Wednesday afternoon at the earliest, he said.

"There is absolutely no way that through our underground rescue effort we can reach the vicinity of the trapped miners for at least one week," Murray said.
The National Earthquake Information Center in Colorado said 10 seismic shocks have been recorded since the collapse, but only one since 3 a.m. Tuesday. That one struck at 3:42 p.m. with a magnitude of 1.7.
Murray has insisted the cave-in was caused by an earthquake. But government seismologists have said the pattern of ground-shaking picked up by their instruments around the time of the accident Monday appeared to have been caused not by an earthquake, but by the cave-in itself."Based on the information and preliminary analysis we've done so far, this event doesn't look like a natural event. It doesn't have the proper characteristics of a natural earthquake," Rafael Abreu, a geologist for the earthquake information center, said after the rescue effort was suspended. "Even though it's not a natural earthquake, it could still generate aftershocks, which is exactly what we're seeing in this particular situation."Murray lashed out at the news media for suggesting his men were conducting "retreat mining," a method in which miners pull down the last standing pillars of coal and let the roof fall in."This was caused by an earthquake, not something that Murray Energy ... did or our employees did or our management did," he said, his voice often rising in anger. "It was a natural disaster. An earthquake. And I'm going to prove it to you."Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration in Washington, said the men at the mine were, in fact, conducting retreat mining.However, Louviere said that exactly what the miners were doing, and whether that led to the collapse, can be answered only after a full investigation.Retreat mining has been blamed for 13 deaths since 2000, and the government requires mining companies to submit a roof control plan before beginning such mining. Such a plan details how and when the pillars will be cut and in what order.The mine had submitted such a plan and received approval in 2006, Louviere said."As long as they abide by that plan, it can be a very safe form of mining," she said. "What we've found with recent fatalities that the operator was found to not be following the roof control plan."More than a day and a half after the cave-in, rescuers were unable to say whether the men were dead or alive, and had not even heard any pounding from their hammers, as miners are trained to do when they get trapped."The Lord has already decided whether they're alive or dead," Murray said. "But it's up to Bob Murray and my management to get access to them as quickly as we can."The trapped miners were believed to be about 3 1/2 miles inside the mine, situated 140 miles south of Salt Lake City.Two holes were being drilled vertically in an attempt to get air and food to the miners and to communicate with them, said Richard Stickler, head of the MSHA, at a news conference.If the men were not killed by the cave-in itself, Murray said, he believed there was enough air and water for them to survive for days or "for perhaps weeks." But the government's chief mine inspector in the West was not as confident."We're hoping there's air down there. We have no way of knowing that," said MSHA's Al Davis.There were 30 pieces of heavy mining equipment in place and 134 people dedicated to the rescue, Murray said. Two C-130s from the Air Reserve in Pittsburgh were being sent with seismic equipment and staff.Before the work was stopped Tuesday, mine shafts were being reinforced with timber and steel beams, and ventilation systems were being repaired, Stickler said.Stickler would not comment on whether retreat mining caused the collapse but said the practice has been used there to extract coal.After meeting privately with family members of the miners, Murray outlined plans to bulldoze a mountain path and erect a seismic listening device outside the mine that could reveal whether any men were alive.He said that once the device was in place, crews would set off dynamite, a sign to miners to tap the ceiling with hammers.Four miners escaped, but they were not in the same area as their trapped brethren, according to Murray.During a rambling and often angry news conference, Murray lashed out at The Associated Press and Fox News for suggesting the men were retreat mining at the time."The damage in the mine was totally unrelated to any retreat mining," Murray said. "The pillars were not being removed here at the time of the accident. There are eight solid pillars around where the men are right now."On Monday, seismograph stations recorded seismic waves of 3.9 magnitude, and authorities briefly thought the ground shaking was an earthquake.Murray Energy insisted the cave-in was caused by an earthquake, saying the ground shaking was in a spot 3,500 feet deeper than where the miners were. The company also claimed the shaking lasted four minutes.But the University of Utah Seismograph Stations and Jim Dewey of the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver said it appeared the trembling was caused by the cave-in.Mine collapses have a seismic signature distinct from earthquakes because they tend to occur at shallower depths and at different frequencies.The first motions of the Utah disturbance indicated a downward movement consistent with a collapse, scientists said. If it had been an earthquake, it would have produced up and down motions on the seismograms, they said.Little was known about the six miners; only one has been identified. The Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake City said three of the men are Mexican citizens.In Huntington, 10 miles from the mine, residents were anxious for news, and the strain could be seen in their somber looks. The families of the trapped miners were sequestered at a junior high school in Huntington, about six miles from the mine, and police stood guard on the grounds.LaRena Collards, 71, was making cakes for families of the trapped miners, just as she did in 1984 when a fire killed 27 people at another mine."You just ask the Lord to bless the families and give them the strength to get through this," Collards said.Associated Press writers Jennifer Dobner and Pauline Arrillaga contributed to this report.

Mine collapse: A chronology
Salt Lake Tribune - United StatesAugust 14, 2007
AUG. 6 - MONDAYTHE CAVE-IN 2:48 a.m.: Crandall Canyon mine collapse registers as a 3.9 magnitude earthquake. Six miners trapped, four escape. Afternoon: Rescue crews unseal a worked-out tunnel parallel to the one the miners are thought to be in, only to find that it has collapsed.
AUG. 7 - TUESDAYFIRST DELAYS 4 a.m.: Continued settling in the mountain and rock falls chase rescue crews out of the tunnel where six miners are trapped. 10 a.m.: Mine company CEO Robert Murray says rescue effort is back to "square one." 8:45 p.m.: One of two rigs began drilling a 2 1/2-inch hole to send a communication device and an air sampler to the area where the miners are believed to be.
AUG. 8 - WEDNESDAY A SECOND DRILL 10 a.m.: A second rig begins drilling an 8 5/8-inch hole toward the trapped miners.
AUG. 9 - THURSDAY NO SOUNDS 10 p.m.: The small drill rig breaks through the rock, but a microphone picks up no sound. Air samples show varying amounts of oxygen, some unable to sustain life. The drill may have emerged in a sealed chamber next to the miners.
AUG. 10 - FRIDAY OXYGEN READINGS 12:10 a.m.: First air sample from 2-inch borehole has 20% oxygen; readings at 1:45 a.m. have it down to 7.2%. 6:40 p.m.: Operators of the 8 5/8-inch drill report the equipment is 242 feet from the miners' presumed location. Rescue crews have advanced about 360 feet in 2,400-foot-long fresh-air main tunnel.
AUG. 11 - SATURDAY 'SURVIVABLE SPACE' 3 a.m.: The 8 5/8-inch drill penetrates the tunnel near where the miners are thought to be. 8:15 a.m.: Camera is dropped down the borehole. Poor quality video images reveal a "survivable space," but no other signs of life. The camera is removed so the hole can be lined with pipe to keep the camera's lens clean for better images. 3 p.m.: Only 520 feet of the main tunnel has been cleared of debris due to the large amount of rock and coal, and the need for safety precautions. Rescuers must go 1,900 feet to reach the miners' location.
AUG. 12 - SUNDAY MORE SETBACKS 2 p.m.: Video images show mining equipment, but no sign of the miners. The effort to reach the miners through the main tunnel sustains a major setback when two more "bounces" threaten to produce cave-ins. 5 p.m.: Video camera with improved lighting system lowered in a second borehole, showing more equipment, but still no sign of life. Late evening: Crews finish bulldozing new road, but have to wait until daybreak to move the drilling rig 1,300 feet to a site near a cliff.
AUG. 13 - MONDAY A THIRD HOLE 3 p.m.: Drill rig pierces the mountain toward new area where the trapped miners might have fled when they discovered their other escape routes were blocked and the underground atmosphere was being contaminated.
___________________________________________________________United States Mine Rescue Association

3 Killed and 6 Injured in Rescue Effort at Mine
New York Times - United States
August 17, 2007

HUNTINGTON, Utah, Aug. 16 — Three rescue workers were killed and six others were injured last night when a seismic jolt caused a mine accident during an effort to reach six men who have been trapped at the Crandall Canyon Mine since Aug. 6, mining officials said.
The jolt happened about 6:30 p.m., according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Officials said the surviving workers suffered injuries including cuts and bruises and chest injuries.
At least 130 rescue workers are involved in the rescue operation, which has stretched 11 days. Though it is unclear how many were working at the time of the accident, all other workers had been evacuated and accounted for last night, said Tammy Kikuchi, a spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Natural Resources. Two of the injured men worked for the federal mine safety agency.
“It’s a devastating to blow to what was already a tragic situation,” said Mayor Joe Piccolo of Price, Utah, who said his father was killed in a mining accident 50 years ago.
A flurry of ambulances and helicopters — some from as far as 140 miles away in Salt Lake City — descended on Crandall Canyon. As one ambulance left, emergency medical technicians could be seen administering aid to a worker.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who was out of state at the time of the accident, rushed to Castleview Hospital in Price, about 25 miles from the mine, where six of the workers were originally taken and one of them died. Two workers were flown to the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, which has a statewide trauma center, and two to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, where one was declared dead.
A spokesman for the federal mining agency said it was unclear whether rescue operations would resume Friday.
Rescue efforts have been plagued by frequent heaves and shudders in the mountain, which cause the walls to burst with debris. On Wednesday night, one jolt caused a rib of the mine to burst, burying half of a continuous mining machine, which was being used to clear a path toward the trapped miners.
“This mountain is still alive,” said Robert E. Murray, co-owner of the mine and president of Murray Energy. “The seismic activity has just been relentless.”
Seismic jolts, known as a bump in mining language, are often caused by compression of coal pillars and are most common in the deepest mines, like Crandall, where the pillars hold the most weight. Over the last two decades, mines in Utah have pushed past depths of 1,500 feet, which had been considered an impassable barrier with older technologies and a depth where some experts believe coal reaches risky weight-bearing limits.
The men who were trapped in the Aug. 6 accident were working at depth of 1,800 feet when a movement of earth so strong that it had a magnitude of 3.7 caused a structural failure. In the recovery effort, 826 feet of rubble have been cleared from the collapse.
Earlier Thursday, officials were briefly optimistic when listening devices called geophones detected five minutes of vibrations emerging from the mine on Wednesday, a sliver of hope in an agonizingly slow rescue effort. Richard E. Stickler, director of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, said Thursday that it was unclear whether the noise emanated from the mine and that an animal or breaking rocks could have caused it.
“We have no idea where the vibrations originated,” Mr. Stickler said. He also said that although geophones had worked in tests, they had never successfully found a missing miner in an active mine.
Officials expected a bore hole being driven 1,586 feet near the origin of the noise to take two days to complete. Three other bore holes have detected no signs of life.
Dan Frosch reported from Huntington, Utah, and Jennifer 8. Lee from New York.
___________________________________________________________United States Mine Rescue Association

Officials Say 6 Miners Are Unlikely to Be Found
New York Times - USA
August 19, 2007HUNTINGTON, Utah, — The six men trapped in a violent collapse deep within a mountain mine nearly two weeks ago may never be found, grim-faced mining officials said today.
The latest results from a fourth hole drilled more than 1,500 feet into the mountainside above the Crandall Canyon Mine found the air quality could not sustain life, said Rob Moore, vice president of the Murray Energy Corporation, a co-owner of the mine.
“It’s likely these miners may not be found,” Mr. Moore said at a news conference. Asked if they would not be found alive or if their bodies would not be found, Mr. Moore replied, “It’s possible they may not be found.”
He would not elaborate, but his statement marked a decided shift from earlier in the day when Mr. Moore stressed that the effort at the mine remained a rescue — not a recovery — operation.
Work began this afternoon on a fifth bore hole into another section of the mine, in the hope that the miners may have sought refuge there. The 2,039-foot hole is expected to be completed in 58 hours, said Richard E. Stickler, an assistant secretary of labor and head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration. If any miners are found alive, he said, water, food and other essentials could be pushed down the borehole to sustain them.
But Mr. Moore did not hold out much hope that the fifth hole would be more successful than the others. “It’s likely we’ll see similar results there,” he said.
Mr. Moore’s pessimistic words coincided with bitter ones used today by some miners and their families to criticize how mining officials dealt with the initial collapse on Aug. 6 and with a failed tunneling effort that ended Thursday when three miners were killed in a cave-in.
“They’re fed up,” said Lonna Jelsma, a short order cook at the Outlaw Cafe in Wellington where miners often come for lunch. “They’re all telling me they shouldn’t be doing retreat mining in the first place because it’s too dangerous.”
A miner leaving the cafe hollered, “That guy Murray needs to go back to where he came from, back to Ohio.” He was referring to Robert E. Murray, a veteran miner and the chief executive of Murray Energy, who throughout the ordeal has publicly defended the industry in general and his company in particular.
Mr. Murray has said no retreat mining — a method of coal recovery — was being done at Crandall Canyon when the collapse occurred.
Kirsti Loveland said her husband and other miners who escaped alive on Thursday night were angry and frustrated by the conditions of the rescue effort. She said that her husband, who works at another mine owned by Murray Energy, was told he had to work on the rescue effort although he felt it was too dangerous, and that he has been earning less than he does during his shifts at the mine where he normally works.
“He is angry and very emotional,” Ms. Loveland said of her husband, whom she would not identify because she feared he would lose his job.
Murray Energy’s general counsel, Mike McKown, denied that miners were obligated to work on the rescue effort. “They are all volunteers,” Mr. McKown said. “They are happy to help, They are a brotherhood of miners.” He also said there was no disparity in wages between rescue and mining jobs.
At Crandall Canyon, rescue workers and mining safety experts met today to discuss whether a horizontal rescue tunnel similar to that which collapsed Thursday night could be safely resumed.
Gestures of charity and kindness toward the mine victims’ families have come in from around the country. A family from the Indiana town where several miners died days after the Crandall County mine collapse sent six hand-knit dolls, three with darker skin representing the Mexican men who are among those trapped, along with a note about shared agony, to the families of all six.
A couple in Price held raised held a car wash that raised more $1,000 for the families of the victims, part of the more than $25,000 that Mayor Hilary Gordon of Huntington estimated has been raised so far.
“We Believe” signs and yellow ribbons were evidence of an area still clinging to hope. But in hushed voices, and always stating that they did not want to be quoted by name, many residents said they do not think the trapped miners are alive.
For Ed Knight, a Mormon bishop from Price who is also a longtime miner, today was another day underground.
After a long week serving as spiritual adviser to many Mormons in his ward, Mr. Knight, who is an electrician, headed back at 6 am for a 12-hour shift at the mine where he works near Crandall Canyon. “These incidents either drive people to drink and use drugs or toward God,” he said. “Thankfully, most of the people I’m talking to are tending toward the latter.”
He recounted a difficult meeting he had with a family member of one trapped miner who sought reassurance that there was something to look forward to after death. “I need to know,” Mr. Knight recounted the person saying. “Is there a purpose in all this? Is there really life after death?” Mr. Knight said he told him that he believed with all his soul there was.
Mark Collins, pastor of Carbon/Emery Church of Christ in Price, tried to offer consolation in the miners’ heroism.
“Jesus said the greatest love you can show is to give your life for a friend,” he said. “Those rescue workers’ who died this week understood sacrifice and love.”
But Mr. Collins could not ignore the pain of the trapped miners’ relatives and friends.
“These men are buried but there has been no funeral,” he said. “Without that, there is no closure.”
___________________________________________________________United States Mine Rescue Association