Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Misfiled Mine Maps Could Have Averted Flood

One of the first stories I wrote for Confined Space was about the July 2002 near-catastrophe at the Quecreek Mine in Pennsylvania where nine miners were "miraculously" rescued after the mine flooded when they broke through to a flooded adjacent mine.

I summarized an article by Charles McCollester, director of the Pennsylvania Center for the Study of Labor Relations at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, that argued that
Prior to the flooding of the mine there had been multiple warnings about the inadequacy of the 1957 map that showed the adjoining Saxman mine that was flooded with water and was the source of the flood in the Quecreek mine. After the disaster, several elderly former Saxman miners claimed on local television that they had gone to the owner of the mine, Black Wolf, in the months just preceding the breach to warn the company that its map was inadequate and that Black Wolf was nearing the Saxman Coal Harrison #2 mine workings.
Turns out that not only was the 1957 map inadequate, but the maps that could have helped prevent the near-disaster were tucked away in a closet at the Consol Energy office in Upper St. Clair, PA.

Consol had misfiled the maps before selling the mine to its current owners in the early 1990's. The company is being sued by eight of the nine Quecreek miners, who allege the nation's largest coal mining corporation failed to inform investors and regulators that the seam was flooded.