|08-08-2007, 10:59 AM||#1|
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Elway was just an arm =MacGruder
Not good news
and they are back to square 1 on the rescue attempt
Mine executive: One week to rescue
By PAUL FOY
Associated Press Writer Wednesday, August 08, 2007
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HUNTINGTON, Utah -- Dangerous conditions that forced rescuers to halt attempts to reach six trapped miners will prevent crews from reaching the men for at least a week, a mining executive said.
Seismic activity "wiped out" all progress rescuers had made in clearing rubble that has trapped the miners since Monday, said Robert E. Murray, chairman of Murray Energy Corp. of Cleveland, owner of the Crandall Canyon mine.
"We are back to square one underground," he said, adding that the rescue operation would resume no earlier than this afternoon.
A spokesman for University of Utah seismologists said today that all evidence indicates it was the mine collapse, not an earthquake, that registered on a seismograph early Monday, and that scientists suspect further shaking at the site is caused by settling.
Though rescue crews withdrew from inside the mine, drilling continued on the surface. Two holes were being bored vertically in an attempt to get air and food to the miners and to communicate with them, said Richard Stickler, head of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.
The holes are small -- one is 2½ inches in diameter and the other less than 9 inches -- but Murray said they should bring information about the status of the miners in the next few days. If the miners are alive, he said, they could survive on available air "for perhaps weeks."
The government's chief mine inspector was more cautious.
"We're hoping there's air down there. We have no way of knowing that," said MSHA's Al Davis.
The six miners were believed to be 1,500 feet underground when the mine collapsed. It is located in a remote, winding canyon 140 miles south of Salt Lake City.
Despite the frustrated rescue effort, residents of the mining region tried to remain optimistic. About 35 people, including several miners, assembled Tuesday evening at a Spanish-language Mass in a humble church outside Huntington.
"We come together to pray for our brothers, who are trapped," said the Rev. Donald Hope of the Mission San Rafael Catholic Church.
A dispute flared over what factors might have been involved in the collapse.
Murray lashed out at news media for suggesting his men were conducting "retreat mining," in which miners pull down the last standing pillars of coal after mining out an area 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. "It was a natural disaster. An earthquake. And I'm going to prove it to you."
Seismologists say the mine collapse appeared to be the cause, not the result, of the seismic event recorded by seismographs.
"Our seismologists at the University of Utah are careful not to rule out any possibility, but they tell me all of the available evidence indicates that the mine collapse itself was the earthquake," Lee Siegel, a University of Utah science news specialist, said today.
Siegel said seismologists don't know what is actually being felt on the ground at the mine during the rescue attempts but "are presuming it's from settling." Eleven aftershocks were recorded in 1½ days after the collapse, Siegel said. The largest was magnitude 2.2.
Murray also insists the damage in the mine was totally unrelated to retreat mining.
"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," he said.
But Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman for the MSHA in Washington, D.C., said the mine was conducting retreat mining. She said that exactly what the miners were doing, and whether that led to the collapse, can be answered only by a full investigation.
Retreat mining has been blamed for 13 deaths since 2000.
The government requires mining companies to submit a detailed plan before beginning the process. Murray Energy 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 is that the operator was found to not be following the roof control plan."
The U.S. Geological Survey also says it appeared the initial tremor was the mine collapse rather than a quake. 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.
Associated Press writers Jennifer Dobner and Pauline Arrillaga contributed to this report.
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|08-08-2007, 11:55 AM||#3|
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Elway was just an arm =MacGruder
|08-08-2007, 11:59 AM||#4|
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Join Date: Jun 2006
The method of mining used at the Utah mine that collapsed Monday, trapping six miners, has a history of being disproportionately deadly, according to federal safety studies.
The Crandall Canyon mine collapse happened while miners were engaged in a method called "retreat mining," in which pillars of coal are used to hold up an area of the mine's roof. When that area is completely mined, the company pulls the pillar and grabs the useful coal, causing an intentional collapse.
It is "the most dangerous type of mining there is," said Tony Oppegard, a former top federal and state of Kentucky mine safety official who is now a private attorney in Lexington, Ky., representing miners.
According to the American Society of Safety Engineers, retreat mining requires very precise planning and sequencing to ensure roof stability while the pillars supporting the roof are removed.
The reason the practice is used is that it pays off: The last bit of coal taken from pillars is pure profit, Oppegard said. Plus, if someone violates rules during pillar removal and there is a collapse, the evidence of rule violations are gone, he said.
Retreat pillar mining is one of the biggest causes of mine roof collapse deaths, according to studies done by the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health.
Three of the nine roof fatalities in 2001 were from retreat mining, according to a 2003 NIOSH paper. Between 1992 and 2001, 100 miners died in roof collapses, 27 of them during retreat mining the study found.
Yet that type of mining only provides 10 percent of underground coal production, the report said, concluding "mathematically a coal miner on a pillar recovery section was more than three times as likely to be fatally injured" in a roof collapse than colleagues in other parts of a mine.
"Pillar recovery continues to be one of the most hazardous activities in underground mining," the report said. A NIOSH study six years earlier found the same thing.
Dennis O'Dell (nasdaq: DELL - news - people ), occupational safety and health chief for the United Mine Workers of America, used to do retreat mining when he was younger.
"The only support you had basically were five breaker posts; five posts would be between you and the roof falling in," O'Dell said. "It's a pretty spooky way of mining."
But Bruce Hill, president of UtahAmerican Energy, Inc. which operates and co-owns the mine, called it a safe practice.
"It's been done for the last 70 years and been very successful for those years," Hill said. "It's something that the government approves and signs off on. Coal operators have been able to prove it's safe all along."
It's up to individual mines and "the coal community" to determine whether to use retreat mining and often times unions and management don't seem to mind, said Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association, which represents mine companies in Washington.
"It's thought to be very valuable, useful," Popovich said.
NIOSH said that during retreat mining nearly half of those fatal accidents happened during the removal of the final pillar, which miners call the "suicide pillar," said J. Davitt McAteer, former head of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration and now vice president of Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia.
McAteer wrote a 2001 report for the state of West Virginia calling for tighter restrictions on the retreat mining process, saying one miner told him "We are always pushing the edge of safety; we are right up against it."
Some states are debating about even allowing the practice, he said. The state of Kentucky recently adopted new rules on retreat mining ordering companies to tell state officials before the practice is used, Oppegard said.
The deaths of four miners within 13 months in 2004 and 2005 prompted the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing to do an independent study of the practice. The resulting report recommended better training in geological conditions, roof control and retreat mining plans.
Last month, federal regulators cited the operator of the southern West Virginia coal mine, Brooks Run Mining Co., for safety violations that resulted in the deaths of two workers in a roof fall. MSHA reported that the company ignored its roof control plan and inadequately trained workers on safe retreat mining practices.