Monday, January 02, 2006

13 Miners Trapped A Mile Underground Following Explosion

Tuesday Morning Update:

No signs of trapped miners found after drill breaks through

TALLMANSVILLE, W.Va. -- A drilling crew broke through a mine this morning at 5:30 and heard no signs of life from the 13 miners trapped inside.

A 6 1/4-inch wide shaft allowed rescue crews to drop a camera into the mine, 260 feet down. They saw no people and there was no response to their pounding on metal lowered into the hole.

"The drill crew heard no response," said Ben Hatfield, president and CEO of International Coal Group.

The crew also dropped an air monitor down the hole. The results showed the air was not life sustaining. Though the oxygen and methane levels were acceptable, the carbon monoxide reading was 1,300 parts per million, which far exceeds a breathable limit.

"Therefore, we are very discouraged by the results of the test," Mr. Hatfield said.

And this from the Washington Post:
Cindy Burke, who lives near the church where family members were waiting, said that one of the trapped men was a neighbor and had recently complained about safety conditions at the mine. Last week, she said, the miner, whom she identified as Junior Hammer, walked into a general store and asked for a cigar. "They said, 'You don't smoke,' and he said he didn't know how much longer he was going to be alive because of the idiots at the mine."


The new year is not starting off well with this breaking news of an explosion in a West Virginia mine that has trapped 13 workers between one and two miles underground.
Explosion at W.Va. Coal Mine Traps 13

The Associated Press
Monday, January 2, 2006; 12:23 PM

TALLMANSVILLE, W.Va. -- An explosion at a coal mine trapped 13 miners more than a mile underground, a county emergency official said Monday.

The explosion happened about 8 a.m. at the Sago Mine in Upshur County, said Steve Milligan, deputy director of the county's Office of Emergency Management. Six miners made it out of the mine and refused treatment.

The trapped miners' condition was not immediately known as an attempt by coworkers to reach them was unsuccessful, Milligan said.

"They essentially came to a wall," Milligan said. "So they can't get to them at this time." The miners were one to two miles underground, he said.

A specially trained mine rescue team was being sent to the scene.The cause of the explosion was not immediately known, said Terry Farley, an administrator with the state Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training. State officials were at the mine.

The mine, in north-central West Virginia, about 100 miles from Charleston, is owned by Anker West Virginia Mining Co., which was recently purchased by International Coal Group.
Twenty-two miners were killed in 2005, a record low according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Three miners were killed in West Virginia in 2005.

Previous large mine disaster include a series of explosion ast a mine in Brookwood, AL that killed 13 coal miners. That was the worst mine incident since Dec. 19, 1984, when a fire killed 27 coal miners near Orangeville, Utah.

Last week, David Morris Jr., age 29, was killed at the H&D Mining Inc. No. 3 mine near Cumberland, KY when a mining car struck him as he stood next to the vehicle he used to shuttle coal through the mine. Morris's stepmother said that after four months, he wanted to quit working at the mine because it was too dangerous:

"He didn't like being in the mines at all, because they're so dangerous," Judy Morris said. "He had problems with his back and wanted a job where he wouldn't have to worry about getting hurt."

Morris was married and had two sons, 4 and three months, his stepmother said.


Here's the latest as of Monday afternoon:
Hours after the blast, rescue teams had not been able to enter the Sago Mine because gases were still being vented and it was too dangerous to enter, said Sam Kitts, vice president of operations for International Coal Group Inc., which owns the mine.

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration sent a rescue robot to the mine, situated about 100 miles northeast of Charleston.

"All miners are equipped to handle their equipment they have. It's prepared them for survival. So they have ample supplies for the breathing apparatuses," Gov. Joe Manchin said on CNN. "You just have to hope that the explosions weren't of the magnitude that was horrific from the beginning." But he added: "There are places they can retreat in all these mines, they have catacombs."

The mine has a single entrance, and the shaft winds its way for miles underground. The miners were supposed to be working about 160 feet below the surface, said the wife of one of the trapped men. But it was not immediately known how far down they were trapped.

Kitts said that because of the fear of another explosion, the rescue operation would proceed very slowly. He said rescue teams would enter the mine on foot and work by hand to remove any rock and debris. He said drilling straight down to reach the miners might be possible, but that rescue crews would not be able to determine the best way to save the workers until their exact location could be established.
The Sago mine apparently has a history of problems:
International Coal Group bought the Sago Mine (pronounced SAY-goh) recently from Anker West Virginia Mining Co.

Federal inspectors cited the mine for 46 alleged violations of federal mine health and safety rules during an 11-week review that ended Dec. 22, according to records.

The more serious alleged violations, resulting in proposed penalties of at least $250 each, involved steps for safeguarding against roof falls, and the mine's plan to control methane and breathable dust. The mine received 185 citations from MSHA during 2005, up from 68 citations in 2004.