MSHA to Digitally Reconstruct Sago Mine

MSHA officials are planning to digitally reconstruct the Sago Mine in Upshur County, W.Va., where 12 miners died and another miner was severely injured following a Jan. 2 methane explosion.

MSHA will join forces with the Army Corps of Engineers' Engineer Research and Development Center to create a mathematical model of the mine, which will help determine the overpressures of the explosion and factors contributing to the failure of the alternative seals separating the abandoned area of the mine from the active section.

MSHA said the Sago Mine model would account for features of the sealed and active areas of the mine including crosscuts and entries with gradual and abrupt changes in roof-to-floor heights; coal pillars with non-uniform dimensions; debris; and ventilation stoppings and seals.

This precise modeling of the Sago Mine will allow investigators to better calculate the strength of the explosive pressures needed to create the damage investigators found following the accident.

"MSHA is utilizing all available technologies to help determine how the Sago tragedy occurred so we can take meaningful steps to prevent similar tragedies in the future to better protect America's miners," said David Dye, acting administrator of MSHA.

A computational fluid dynamics (CFD) study of the Jan. 2 methane explosion in the Sago Mine will be conducted to study the phenomenon of pressure build-up, or pressure piling, due to abrupt and gradual changes in entry heights and the structural strengths of the alternative seals in use at the Sago Mine.

The Jan. 2 explosion destroyed 10 ventilation seals and numerous ventilation stoppings. MSHA also is conducting full- scale tests, subjecting alternative seals to explosive forces as part of its ongoing investigation into the Sago disaster.

MSHA sought an interagency agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers for this type of study after determining the magnitude and complexity of the methane explosion required supercomputer resources and specialized expertise and software.

An independent report submitted to West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin by former MSHA head J. Davitt McAteer last month recommended mining companies use concrete blocks instead of the foam blocks that were used in the Sago Mine for seals. The foam blocks were approved by MSHA.

MSHA has yet to submit a report on what caused the explosion.

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