Senate Plans Hearing on Mine Collapse; Little Hope for Rescue
ABC News - USA
August 23, 2007
As rescuers drilled what will likely be a final hole into a mountain to search for six missing miners, the U.S. Senate added its voice to a growing chorus of questions raised over the safety of the coal mine.
Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy announced plans to hold the first oversight hearing about the mine collapse when Congress returns from its summer break Sept. 5.
Among those the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees labor issues hopes to hear from are mine co-owner Bob Murray and Mine Safety and Health Administration chief Richard Stickler.
Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, also demanded a list of documents Thursday from the Labor Department about the Crandall Canyon Mine and its operators.
The documents Kennedy requested include several petitions Murray made to MSHA for changes in his mining plans at Crandall Canyon. Experts have said those changes were risky and could have led to the collapse that trapped six miners.
Company officials did not immediately respond to e-mailed requests for comment.
At the mine, crews worked on a sixth test hole to search for any sign of the missing men. Officials have little hope they will find the miners, who have not been heard from since the Aug. 6 cave-in.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
HUNTINGTON, Utah (AP) Relatives of six miners trapped deep inside a Utah coal mine are holding out hope that a final hole being drilled Thursday to try locate the men will bring a miracle.
Searchers have lowered cameras and listening devices into five other narrow holes but found no signs of the miners and no evidence of life.
The sixth hole will head toward an area where the miners were last believed to have been working.
"This is the last hole," mine co-owner Bob Murray said Wednesday night. Drilling it, he said, will "bring closure to me that I could never get them out alive."
Jackie Taylor, whose daughter Lacee dates one of the miners missing since an Aug. 6 cave-in, said relatives and friends are insisting more be done.
Attempts to tunnel through the collapsed mine shaft to reach the men were halted after a second cave-in killed two miners and a federal safety officer and injured six others. Even though three rescuers died, area mine workers are willing to continue the work, Taylor said.
"They're here, they'll help the mine rescuers, they're waiting to help if they'll let them," Taylor said. "And we are so grateful for the rescuers and everyone that has helped us. We are so grateful, don't get us wrong."
Families are also angry at Murray over the suspended tunneling and the decision against digging a hole big enough for a rescue capsule to be lowered.
Taylor, who said she had a shouting match with Murray during a Monday night meeting with families, said the mine owner is reneging on his promise to return the men to their families dead or alive.
The fifth drilled hole, only a few inches wide, punched through on Wednesday but revealed only a 6-inch void in the mine 1,500 feet down, federal officials said. No noise was heard from the hole after a microphone was lowered and workers banged on the drill steel, said Jack Kuzar, a district manager for the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
The collapse that trapped the miners is believed to have been caused by settling layers of earth bearing down on the walls of a coal mine. The force can cause mine pillars to fail, turning chunks of coal into missiles. The unpredictable and dangerous phenomenon is known by miners as a "bump."
Critics and mine experts have questioned whether mining should have been conducted at Crandall Canyon at all because of the potential for collapses.
Murray said he would not resume mining at the Crandall Canyon mine.
"I can tell you right now, we are not going back into that mountain," he said.
He has insisted the collapse was caused by a natural earthquake, but government seismologists say the collapse itself is what caused the ground to shake, registering a magnitude of 3.9. Since then there have been several other bumps.
"Had I known that this evil mountain, this alive mountain, would do what it did, I would never have sent the miners in here," Murray said earlier. "I'll never go near that mountain again."
Most of the surviving Crandall Canyon workers have been given jobs at two other mines in central Utah's coal belt, although a small crew remains at Crandall Canyon, Murray said.
Associated Press writers Chelsea J. Carter, Michael Rubinkam and Jessica Gresko contributed to this report from Huntington.
___________________________________________________________United States Mine Rescue Association