Rescue Efforts Continue for Trapped Utah Miners

Aug. 7, 2007
It is expected to take rescuers as long as 3 days to tunnel and dig their way to six Utah coal miners trapped on Aug. 6 by a cave-in 1,500 feet below the surface at the Genwal Resources Inc.'s Crandall Canyon Mine in Emery County, Utah.

"Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp., of Pepper Pike, Ohio, the parent company of the mine's operator, acknowledged Aug. 7 at a press conference at the mine, "I don't know whether these miners are alive or dead, only the Lord knows that." But, Murray vowed, ""I will not leave this mine until those men are rescued, dead or alive."

The trapped miners were believed to have been working approximately 4 miles inside the Crandall Canyon mine entrance. Rescuers were able to reach a point about 1,700 feet from where the miners are believed to be trapped before being blocked by debris.

Murray said a number of rescue teams with as many as 134 people are involved in the rescue effort, adding that "we are sparing no expense" to save the men.

A drilling rig was flown in by helicopter to help in tunneling efforts, and Murray said rescuers are looking at five different rescue scenarios.

He also said that if the miners were still alive, they would be able to sustain on oxygen that naturally leaks into the mine as well on drinking water that is currently stocked in the mine chambers.

Initially, MSHA said that a “seismic or ground failure event was registered near the location of the mine. However, media reports have indicated that a roof collapse may have triggered the seismic activity near the mine and not the other way around, a claim Murray denies.

Crandall Canyon Mine Cited 1090 times Since 1995

Since opening in 1995, the Crandall Canyon Mine has received a total of 1,090 citations from MSHA and more than $260,000 in fines have been imposed on the mine since then. This year alone, MSHA issued 32 citations, 14 of them considered significant.

However, H.L. Boling, a mine safety consultant and president of H.L. Boling & Associates Inc., told, that the numbers alone don't give any measurement of how well or how poorly the mine is faring in terms of safety.

“You can't go by the sheer numbers,” he said. “If there have been repeat violations, then that's where I would be concerned.”

MSHA's records, though, indicated that the inspectors has cited the mine three times since 2005 for violating a rule requiring that at least two separate passageways be designated for escape in an emergency. Although MSHA ordered the company to pay a fine of $963 for not having the escape routes available in 2005, a fine for the same violation was issued for $60.

Following the deadly year in the mines in 2006 when 47 workers were killed, MSHA reported that 10 miners have died on the job so far this year.

As a result of last year's death toll, which has been reportedly the highest since 1996, Congress passed the first major mine safety legislation in more than three decades, called the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act. Yet, several Congressional leaders have stated that more provisions should be added since it has been “years of neglect and backsliding by [the Bush] administration and an industry that had become, by its own admission, overly complacent.”

New legislation introduced in June, the Supplemental Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act (S-MINER), calls for stricter standards for allowable coal dust, a ban on the use of belt-airways for ventilation and protection for whistleblowers who report unsafe conditions. For more on the S-MINER Act, please read "Mine Safety Bill Hearing Turns Into Witness Participation Debate" at

Boling said he applauds the new legislation, but emphasized that provisions such as heavier fines, which already are included in the original MINER Act, are not the answer in getting companies to comply with safety regulations.

“I realize that with some companies, money is what drives them, but a good education system drives safety,” he stated.

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