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Front Page » August 28, 2007 » Local News » Crandall Canyon mine
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Crandall Canyon mine

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Crandall Canyon Update Monday Aug. 20

Robert Murray, company president from Murray Energy, had been absent from the press conferences since the Thursday night, Aug. 16 accident which killed three rescue workers. He broke this absence with his appearance at the Monday Aug. 20 conference.

Richard Stickler, Assistant Secretary of Labor reported the activity on bore holes one, two and three hadn't changed. On bore hole number four, four hours of quiet time was held with no response; they followed this time with a video camera which revealed no sign of the miners. Some air is coming out of bore hole number four which is caused by the air flowing into the other bore holes. Oxygen in this area has tested at 11-12 percent since pumping in and this oxygen shows a slight increase and is now at 14 percent.

"The fifth bore hole is down 850 feet. We met with eight experts we brought in for review of ground control. We spent most of yesterday showing them maps and pictures of the underground workings, noting the changing conditions. Today the eight ground control experts gave a conclusion," said Stickler. He then read the statement: "After reviewing the available information, the preponderance of data shows the entire west area to be structurally unstable." The experts went on to say that it is not possible to predict the timing or the location of the seismic events. There is a significant risk and the underground operation is suspended indefinitely.

If a live miner is found with the fifth bore hole then they would send a capsule down to save a life, but the risk is unacceptable to send someone underground 1,500-1,600 feet for the purpose of exploration.

Murray said for the whole two weeks and 15 hours since the original seismic activity, the focus has been all about the miners families, the six trapped miners; the three miners who have been killed and the six injured. "MSHA and UtahAmerican has not left a stone unturned," said Murray. He recognized the families are distraught which is understandable since it's been more than two weeks. There has been only one way to get them out, unless we find one alive and look at a shaft to get them out. Murray said the air readings they have would not support human life, but work continues on bore hole number five. Top experts on rock mechanics have advised not to send anyone underground. Murray said he has been administering to the families of the missing and those killed on Thursday. "My heart goes out to them. They are very important to me. Totally important," said Murray.

News reporters questioned Murray about the family members who have lashed out at him saying he had taken away their hope. Murray responded that maybe his delivery is not always the best, but after two weeks and 15 hours he needs to be totally honest and consistent. He doesn't believe he took their hope away. Whatever happened, the original seismic activity was 10,000 times stronger than the seismic activity on Thursday night which took the lives of three rescue workers. "There's no sense in beating around the bush. I have tried to be honest and compassionate," said Murray.

Murray was questioned about the lawyer speaking for the families and he said the families have a right to do what they want.

If the miners aren't recoverable then Murray said he already told his company they would abandon that section of the mine.

Reporters wondered where Murray had been in his absence from in front of the camera. He said he was devastated by Thursday's losses and needed time to recover. He was right in the mine and worked to get those injured workers out.

Murray was questioned if he thought the miners would be found alive. He said he doesn't know if they will be found but he is not optimistic they will be found alive.

One reporter asked if the mountain would remain the miners final burial spot. Murray said that is possible. "I am devastated, these are my people," said Murray. He said the Crandall part of the mine would be sealed forever. But, it is possible a different mine in a different place might reopen.

When bore hole number five breaks through the procedure will be the same, a microphone and camera will be inserted.

Murray was questioned about the safety of the mining plan in place at the mine. He said this plan had been approved by MSHA and that plan was in place before he bought the mine on Aug. 9, 2006. Murray Energy didn't develop the plan. He said the only injuries at Crandall Canyon mine this year before now was two sprained backs and a cut hand. "We operate safe mines, I take the safety of my miners to bed every night. If there were any indications this mine was unsafe we would have shut it down," said Murray.

Murray was questioned if he had been able to smooth things over with the families. He said he just told them the truth and answered their questions with compassion.

He also said in response to a question about mineable coal at Crandall and he said there were two and a half years of mining left. But the mine would be sealed with the equipment inside and they would withdraw. There are other areas of the mine with lower cover which would be examined by experts before starting on anything else there.

Murray was again questioned about the families reaction to him. He said he has been forthright and compassionate, but upfront. Their reception to him has not been good, but sometime he said the reality must sink in. "I am just a messenger they didn't want to hear."

Murray said he would not put the responsibility of speaking on someone else, he will stand up before America and he believes everything has been handled in the best possible way.

Someone asked Stickler if the mining plan caused the mountain bumps. Stickler replied there is no way to predict mountain bumps and when or how often they will occur. There is no perfect mine plan that will guarantee that mine bumps will not occur. The mining plan was done by technical engineers and a copy was provided to MSHA before it was approved and the MSHA experts looked at it. There is no way to predict seismic activity.

Murray said his managers have hundreds of years experience and not one of them have seen this type of seismic activity.

Murray was asked if he had any regrets about anything. He said, "I regret we lost three heroes. I regret six others were injured. All but one is out walking now. I can tell you absolutely nothing more could have been done to rescue these six trapped miners. Based on all the data we had we made what we thought was the right decision."

Crandall Canyon Update Tues. Aug. 21-Wed. Aug. 22 update

The fifth borehole reached completion on the morning of Aug. 22. The procedure was the same as with the previous boreholes. They pounded on the drilling rod and placed a microphone and cameras down the hole.

There wasn't a response from the trapped miners. The rubble in this area of the mine only left a space of approximately six inches from the roof.

Robert Murray, company president of Murray Energy speculated that the sixth bore hole would be the last if they don't find anyone alive. If someone was found alive, they would take measures to get them out.

Murray said, "He would never come back to that evil mountain, that's still alive." On the morning of Aug. 17, they began submitting the papers to close the mine and notified MSHA of their intent. The United Mine Workers he said had distorted the information about the intent of Murray Energy with the Crandall Canyon Mine. Murray said UMWA has always interfered and taken advantage of the tragedies of miners and their families. UMWA had pickets at the Wildcat load out in Carbon County. Murray said he has been at Crandall Canyon the last 18 days trying to rescue the miners. "It's not about UMWA or about me. It's about the miners and we have no intention of ever going back into that mountain. Only a few miners remain here at Crandall Canyon and they are recovering out-by equipment. The other miners have been transferred to Tower and West Ridge."

Some years down the road they may look at the remaining reserves at Crandall Canyon, but this would be a different location than where the missing miners are trapped.

Jack Kuzar said at 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 22, the bore hole number five broke through and the hole was full of rubble with only a six inch void between the rubble and the ceiling. They followed all previous procedures and were beginning to pull the drill steel out of the hole.

They will do tests on the oxygen levels at this fifth hole. The area is closed in tight out-by and it appears most entries are that way. Hole number six will be drilled in the last area where the men were mining, as it appears egress out of the mine was impossible at the time of the initial seismic event. The most likely area they could be was in-by. The pad is in place for hole number six. Kuzar was asked how long they would continue drilling holes and Kuzar replied until they are assured the miners are no longer alive and can't get to them.

Hole number six is approximately 1,700 feet from the surface to the mine tunnel. It is estimated they will punch through sometime on Friday or Saturday. Kuzar is a district manager for MSHA from the East, but was a district manager in the West for seven years and is familiar with the mines in the area. Kuzar said he had attended a meeting with the families and they are strong people.

Company vice president, Rob Moore said prior to this disaster, the Crandall Canyon mine had gone 337 days without any accidents.

Reporters asked Murray if his company had submitted new mining plans for the Crandall Canyon Mine. Murray said he was unaware of any such renewed plan. The families have been critical of Murray and his company saying they hadn't done enough and to this Murray replied that the families are operating on emotions and it's possible the six trapped miners did not survive the initial 3.9 seismic activity. The families are grief stricken he said, but there's a point where if you don't find alive miners, you can't risk anyone else and he isn't willing to risk any more lives.

Murray attended the funeral of Dale Black on Tuesday. Murray said he was greeted by Dale's wife Wendy and introduced to family members. "Dale Black was one of the finest foremans anywhere. He lost his life but he didn't suffer," said Murray.

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