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Front Page » August 21, 2007 » Local News » Crandall Canyon mine: Daily Update
Published 3,470 days ago

Crandall Canyon mine: Daily Update

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Staff writer

Sunday Aug. 19 press updates-Families speak

Rob Moore, vice president of Murray Energy said it is very possible that the miners may not be found. He knows the difficulty the families are going through and it is emotionally hard for everyone.

In response to that announcement, Sonny Olsen, a Price attorney and spokesman for the trapped miners families addressed the media and read a statement. The statement was presented to the media representatives gathered on Main Street in Huntington between 400-500 South. "We feel that MSHA, UtahAmerican Energy and Murray Energy have failed the six trapped miners and their families. These families have said from the beginning that a 36 inch bore hole should be drilled. We feel abandoned. They have failed us and the communities.

"We continue to sit and wait at the mercy of those in charge. We feel like three lives have been lost and many injuries could have been avoided if they had done what we asked. We have asked that a 36 inch bore hole be drilled since day one.

"We feel like they have given up and are just waiting for the miners to expire. Precious time is being wasted and we don't have time to waste," said Olsen.

Later in the day, Professor Mike McCarter, of the Utah Mining and Engineering Department, said deciding the location of a 36 inch bore hole would be next to impossible. "At Que Creek, there was only 250-300 feet of cover and that drilling took 70 hours. Here the cover is at least 2,000 feet. We just wouldn't know where to drill it. It's a hard call to make. Taking a person from safety to danger is not an easy decision," he said.

Richard Stickler, MSHA, explained to the miners families the difficulty of putting miners through a large hole down from the top of the mountain. The hole would take weeks to drill and case, and the time to lower one miner into a hole would be around an hour. Considering the mine safety apparatus' air supply lasts about three hours, the first miner would be out of air before a complete rescue team could be lowered into the hole.

The first bore holes are beginning to crumble because time was not expended to case the holes. In the case of a hole large enough for a person, casing must be installed. This would take more added, precious time. If a team was lowered into the mine cavity from the top of the mountain, and they took extra air supply, they could stay in the mine an hour before they would need to be lifted out before running out of air.

The event of another bounce is very good. The mountain continues to move and settle. If a rescue team were to be inside the mine when another bounce occurred, the results could very possibly be a kinked casing which would not allow the rescuers to be removed, thus trapping three-five additional people.

Saturday night Aug. 18 press briefing,

"All underground rescue operations have been permanently suspended," said Rob Moore, vice president of Murray Energy, parent company of UtahAmerican Energy which is co-owner of the Crandall Canyon mine. Moore also explained that owner Robert Murray's time is being consumed totally by ministering to the families of the miners involved with both recent tragedies at the mine and overseeing the continuing rescue operations in the form of the above ground drilling.

"Mr. Murray is personally ministering to the families of the deceased miners and the courageous rescuers of the trapped miners," said Moore. "This continues to be a rescue effort. We have had setbacks and suffered losses, but we will not give up hope. This is a trying time for all the families involved."

Richard Stickler, Mine Safety and Health Administration, reported the success of bore hole number four. "It broke through into the mine about 9:15 a.m.," he said. Due to the weather conditions, helicopters could not be used to transport data, and that data is coming in by ground vehicle which takes four hours, they do not have up to the minute data concerning air quality in this portion of the mine. He also reported that fresh air continues to be pumped into the mine in bore holes two and three.

Following the drill breaking into the mine, a microphone was lowered into the cavity and a four hour quiet period was begun. "We signaled to the trapped miners with three explosive charges and then we listened. We did not detect any signals in the form of noise or vibrations from underground. Our plans to drill bore hole number five will continue. Number five will be at the first planned site for number four. The cement pad and road are already in place for this site. It will enter the mine at crosscut 133. When the cameras are installed into number four, we will move on to number five," concluded Stickler.

Stickler said a team of experts from around the country have been assembled. They will be arriving today, and many of these experts have been given information during the rescue operation, so they will be up to speed when they arrive. The decisions this team comes to will determine the direction of the rescue effort.

"As long as there is hope, we will go on," said Stickler. "Our goal is to find them alive. We can provide food, water, any needed medications and whatever else is needed through the bore holes. We can sustain them for a long period. I believe we can design a system that will provide safety for the rescue workers."

Stickler also reported that bounces continue to be detected in the mine. There have been 23 recorded bounces since the Aug. 6 bounce that trapped the six miners.

Thursday morning. Aug. 16-Crandall Canyon update

The news at the Thursday news conference is the same as the past 10 days at the Crandall Canyon mine. Richard Stickler, MSHA, gave his appreciation to the numerous volunteers who are donating time and materials to this rescue effort. He said many churches, pastors and businesses are helping in any way that is needed.

Stickler reported the air being tested in drill hole number one is 7 percent oxygen and 33 ppm carbon dioxide. In hole number two, 9,000 cubic feet of fresh air is being pumped into the mine. The amount of oxygen in hole number three is 16 percent with 21 ppm of carbon dioxide. While normal oxygen is 21 percent, Stickler said 16 percent would support life.

"As for the underground activity, we are in 826 feet. It is moving very slowly and we are doing everything we can to accelerate the work," concluded Stickler. "We cannot compromise the safety of the rescuers."

Mine owner Robert Murray began his comments with "I have some bad news and I have some good news. The bad news is that we have not recovered the miners or located them yet. The underground effort is disappointingly slow. Five minutes before I left the mine, there was another small seismic occurrence, and at 9 p.m. last night, a slightly larger event covered up the continuous miner about halfway.

"These things stop the underground effort, but we are going again now. Morale is exceptionally good with the men who are underground. We have more management here now, so everyone is getting some relief.

"I am so sorry to have to tell the families how slow the work is progressing. The mountain is still alive and won't let us advance very quickly. The families are strong and that strength comes from their faith. They are keeping me strong. I am so proud of them," concluded Murray.

He then showed a new video which was made last night by a camera in bore hole number three. The area is open, with no cave in or rib outbursts. The air in there is almost normal and will sustain life. There is no sign of anyone in the area of the camera or the bore hole.

"I am not the most important person here. I am no more important than all of the miners here. We are a team. What matters most is the recovery of the trapped miners," said Murray.

Murray announced the good news, the drill has been moved for bore hole number four and drilling will commence within the hour. It is expected to take anywhere from one and a half to three days to complete this drilling. This hole is being directed to the location of the noise which was detected in the vicinity of cross cut 143 on Wednesday afternoon. The purpose of this drilling is to locate the miners and sustain them until the underground efforts reach them.

Both Murray and Stickler stated the noises detected yesterday do not mean the miners have been located. On a vertical plane, straight up and down, the geophone detected some vibrations a second and an half apart during a five minute quiet period. "We do not know if the vibrations are under the coal seam, right in the coal seam, above the coal seam, or on the surface. But, it was significant enough for us to redirect our drilling efforts to cross cut 143," said Stickler.

Wed. Aug. 15 press briefing-Crandall Canyon Mine

Richard Stickler, Mine Safety and Health Administration, opened the meeting with the same news as in the past several days. "The employees are working very hard. This is a rescue operation and we are working closely with the families," said Stickler.

He explained the meetings with the families are usually two a day, but today, because of the bore hole number three breaking through into the mine cavity, he and the mine management team have just returned from the second family update meeting of the day. He added the underground cleanup work has advanced 90 feet from yesterday. "The work is slow and difficult," said Stickler.

Stickler reported a small seismic event in the night which caused some roof fall in-by of the roof supports. This bounce caused some damage to the continuous mining machine and necessitated shut down of the rescue operation for a short while for repairs to be completed.

The bore holes number one and two are continuing in the capacity of the previous days, for monitoring of the air and to pump fresh air into the mine. Bore hole number three broke into the mine at 10:15 a.m. An attempt to lower a microphone into the bore hole was unsuccessful. The microphone was only able to be lowered to within 20 feet of the roof of the mine.

Stickler explained that the bore hole will have steel casings installed for protection of the camera and protection of the hole. A camera will be lowered as soon as possible and will take about an hour.

"This has been a tremendous team operation from the start of the rescue operation. The governor's office, the state people, the county officials and Sheriff's Office, have all been very cooperative. This is our second meeting today and I expect more," Stickler added. He stated the families of the trapped miners have provided a great support to him and the experts who continue to work on the rescue plan.

Crandall Canyon owner Robert Murray stated throughout this rescue effort the work continues on the rescue plan. From the onset of the operation, a plan has been in place and they continue to follow that plan. "We are moving toward the miners, and we will continue drilling and underground efforts until we get to the trapped miners and bring them out. During the night last night, I flew in 14 of my top management personnel from other mining operations to help with this effort. Between them, they have more than 500 years of mining experience. This will help with this rescue to give the exhausted management people here some time to rest. We have a very talented force here on site, but they are in need of rest," said Murray.

"This brings the total of personnel on site to around 200. I am still very optimistic that we will find the miners alive," stated Murray. He went on to say there is plenty of water in the mine, along with air and livable space.

Murray then introduced the Crandall Canyon safety manager Bodee Allred. This is in response to a request from the reporters on scene to talk to a miner who has been on site for the operation. Allred's cousin in one of the miners trapped in the mine. "The people at this mine are a family, not just related, but a mining family. I am proud we have a safe operation. The best thing we can do now is be safe in the work we are doing in the mine. Those men who are trapped in there don't want us to take any chances. I want to thank all of those who have helped with this effort. This effort begins down town and continues up into the mine. Everybody has an important place in the rescue effort. We are also thankful for the extra help Mr. Murray has brought in to help," said Allred.

"Keep that hope. These are tough men who are trapped in there," added Allred. "Our efforts are right on track, we are under a lot of pressure, but we are taking precautions. I feel safe in there and these guys are doing a helluva job."

Murray asked everyone to respect Allred's privacy, along with all the others working at Crandall Canyon. "I meet with the families and we begin all the meetings with a prayer and end them with a prayer. They are holding up extremely well and it is their faith that is enabling them to be strong. They are amazing people. I have every hope to recover the miners alive," concluded Murray.

In response to reporters questions, Stickler said there are a lot of possibilities as to where the miners may be in the mine. He said they are going over every possibility and using their best judgment.

Murray said there are 50-60 miners underground working on the rescue effort at any given time.

"As soon as the families know of any changes or progress, you (the reporters) will be informed as soon as possible," said Murray. "It is disappointing for this rescue effort to go on this long, but there is every hope."

Tues. Aug. 14-morning press conference

Richard Stickler, assistant secretary of labor, opened the Tuesday morning press briefing by reporting on the family meetings. He said the mine officials are meeting with the families twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. "We are using input and suggestions from the families as many are miners themselves," said Stickler.

One question he said the families have asked is about the drilling portion of the rescue effort. A family member had asked if the drill bits and the type of drilling was the most effective type of drilling. "We then asked the Utah State Division of Natural Resources about our drilling effort. They did some investigation and reported back to us that there was no better way of drilling than what we are doing," added Stickler.

Stickler reported the activities at the first two bore holes remains the same. In hole number one, air samples are being taken and in hole number two fresh air is being pumped into the mine. As far as the drilling of hole number three, the shaft is down 585 feet. It is just over a third of the distance as it had 1,415 feet to go from the top.

For the underground activity, the work is progressing very slowly. "The rescuers are working in very difficult conditions. They are using water jacks and chain link fencing to secure the walls and the ceiling of the mine as they go. We are going to share with the press, a video we made for the families to illustrate the rescue efforts," concluded Stickler.

UtahAmerican company president Robert Murray said, "This video was made exclusively for us to show the families what is being done. Since the beginning of this event and over the past eight days, we have focused on two items. The first is concentrating on the families' needs and the second is getting to the trapped miners. This video is to give the families a better understanding of the extreme difficulties we are having carrying out our rescue plan," said Murray.

As the video of the underground rescue effort began, Murray explained in detail the activities of the rescuers and the difficulties they are facing. He explained the use of water jacks, the roof supports which are being installed, and how the fencing is being put in to reduce bursts from the ribs (mine walls) and the ceiling.

"This is a slow costly process to get to where we believe the miners are trapped. The advancement is extremely slow toward the miners, but this is how we must proceed to protect the rescuers. We are roof bolting to prevent any cave-ins, and installing the fence to stop the ribs coming in. We are installing steel stoppings for ventilation for the rescuers.

"As you can also see from the video, the rescuers are showing real hustle. They are working as fast as they possibly can. We are in about 700 feet and we figure we are about 1,200 feet from the trapped miners. These rescuers are working very diligently. When we went in to make the video, we did not slow down the rescue effort. You can also see from the video how confined the quarters are underground," said Murray.

The second half of the video was a detailed illustration of the surface drilling on the top of the mountain. There are five engineers and two Mine Safety and Health Administration representatives at the drill site around the clock. The drilling of hole number three is a sophisticated directional type drilling, not vertical.

"This number three bore hole is not our last bit of hope. Those miners may very well be barricaded in there. Part of their training is to barricade themselves away from the danger. Last night, the seismic activity stopped," stated Murray. "There are 134 miners working in this mine rescue operation. There are four crews are spread out over seven days, 24 hours a day."

Murray went on to say there is no frustration or criticism coming from the families. "To their credit, these are wonderful people, very strong people." He said at the beginning of this effort, he hired bilingual interpreters and professional caregivers to work with the families.

The Mexican Consulate has also been on site since day one to oversee what is being done for the families.

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