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Front Page » September 4, 2007 » Local News » Crandall Canyon updates
Published 3,457 days ago

Crandall Canyon updates

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Bruce Hill and Laine Adair general managers for UtahAmerican Energy speak about their company.

Day 24 of the mine disaster at the Crandall Canyon mine. Richard Kulczewski from the Mine Safety and Health Administration conducted the press briefing. He said the drilling operation was moving approximately 40 feet per hour and would break into the mine sometime during the night of Aug. 29-30. After the drilling breaks through the protocol will be followed which has been followed on previous holes.

It takes approximately three hours to remove the steel after it has been pounded upon and a quiet time is observed to listen for any response from the six trapped miners.

Cameras will be put down, but not the robotic camera at that time.

Video will be taken to assess the condition of hole number seven. Gas readings will also be taken to evaluate conditions of the air in hole seven.

One reporter wondered how many holes would be drilled. Kulczewski said any decisions on that will be made by MSHA along with the mining company. For now they are taking things one hole at a time. Kulczewski believes the robot will be a good help in obtaining more data. It initially went down hole number three and got within 10 feet of the mine and couldn't go any farther. It was not stuck, but the shaft had shifted and entry into the mine was no longer available at that drill hole.

There are 20 people at the Crandall mine working at this time in equipment removal. Kulczewski was questioned on if a miracle were to occur and someone tapped back would sustenance be available to send down. He said it has always been ready at the drill site to be dropped down on a minutes notice.

It takes approximately 45 minutes to drop a camera down and communication devices. "If we were lucky enough to find miners alive, then we would move into a different phase. We would find out what their needs are and their conditions and would decide where to put the 36 inch bore hole. The rig is on the mountain that can do this. We could maintain sustenance through hole number seven.

Kulczewski was also questioned what they would do if they lowered a camera and it showed signs the miners were not alive. He said they would deal with that if it becomes an issue. "It's just not safe to send someone down there to explore," said Kulczewski. There is no talk at this time of resuming an underground rescue. Kulczewski also said the mining experts that evaluated the available data didn't want to go underground because they considered it too dangerous.

Kulczewski said they will exhaust every available option to determine the fate of the six trapped miners. No investigation is ongoing at this time, efforts are still focused on the rescue efforts. He also said the investigation will be time consuming especially because it involves fatalities. Investigation procedures will include reviewing all possible data and interviews with miners and the mining company, Murray Energy. One basic investigation will encompass both disasters at the mine.

A tape of the 911 call and the call from the University of Utah seismology department were released this week. The calls came into the Emery County Sheriff's Office dispatch on Aug. 6. The call from the U of U came into dispatch at 3:47 a.m. and Walter Arabaz reported that in the location about 3.1 miles west-southwest of the Crandall Canyon mine number one in Huntington Canyon a seismic event occurred at 2:48 a.m. which might be related to a coal mining event. Arabaz asked if any calls had come in reporting anything to do with this event.

John Burdick, dispatcher, said no they hadn't received any calls yet. Four minutes later a 911 call came into dispatch from the Crandall Canyon mine. The caller said, "This is Mark Toomer from the Crandall Canyon mine. There's been a big cave-in, we're probably going to need an ambulance. We're not sure yet, we haven't heard from anybody in that section. But we're probably going to need one up here. Send an ambulance up." Toomer said they were at the old Genwal mine in Huntington Canyon and he wasn't sure exactly how far up the canyon it was, but quite aways. Deputy Burdick dispatched an ambulance to the mine at that time. Now 25 days later the miners from that section have still not been located.

Jack Kuzar speaks at a press conference outlining the rescue efforts.

Crandall Canyon update Aug. 30

The seventh bore hole broke through approximately 4 a.m. on Aug. 30. There was only a two and a half foot void with seven feet of rubble. Drillers pounded on the drilling steels and there was no response from within the mine. The drill hole began filling up almost immediately with mud and water. There was no chance the robot camera could be placed down the seventh bore hole.

The robot technicians determined the robot camera might have a chance to go down bore hole number four. Some worries with bore hole number four include the roofing materials which could hang up the robotics as it enters the mine.

MSHA representative Rich Kulczewski said the miners families were very quiet when the information was presented about the findings from the kitchen area. The families had held the hope the miners might have retreated to the kitchen area after the original seismic activity. But, it was determined the air quality in that area is not good. "These are incredible people, they keep hoping for better information. They only asked a few questions today. They wondered if a pump for hole seven could get the water out of that area."

Water and soil were filling hole number seven at a rapid rate.

Kulczewski said they are hopeful the robotics will be able to make it down hole number four. They are disappointed they were not able to get any pictures at hole number seven. "Disappointed, but not deterred. There were good pictures from hole number four before, it showed large boulders in view and roof timbers and rubble. We will show everyone the pictures as soon as we get them. We are exhausting every possibility, we haven't run out of possibilities yet. We will try our best to see what we can do."

He said that equipment is being moved and that will continue. Kulczewski was questioned as to whether any volunteers who want to go down in a capsule will be allowed to do so. He said they can't send someone down in there to explore. It would take two weeks to drill a 30 inch hole, and it could drill into rubble. They don't want to take a chance and lose any more rescuers.

He was questioned as to whether there was any encouraging news. Kulczewski said they have people looking at all the possibilities. When they have come to an obstacle they have asked where do we go from here and never given up. The possibility of an eighth bore hole hasn't been decided at this time.

Lawyers from the families also spoke at the press conference. Colin King said the families would be hard pressed not to be discouraged with the findings from hole number seven. The kitchen area is not sustainable and no one could be alive in that area considering the air quality. The families are very discouraged and very sad. They are still reeling, but maintain a glimmer of hope. They want to stick it out awhile longer. They are not resolved to their fate. The facts speak for themselves and it is discouraging to hear what happened at the kitchen. King said the families hear bad news after bad news and it's just very sad. They are all grieving. The families are patient and willing to wait to see what happens with the fourth hole and the robotics. He said the people doing the drilling are doing their very best and the families appreciate that. "The families are grateful for everything they continue to try up there," he said.

August 29 update

The situation at the Crandall Canyon coal mine has slowed down to a crawl. The robot with the camera attached was presented at the press conference on Aug. 26. This robot would be lowered into bore holes three or four. It reached within 10 feet of the mine and then was unable to travel any farther. The bore holes have been filling in with debris and movement from the mountain is sealing them off.

The robot was then brought back up to the surface. The seventh bore hole is in the process of being drilled now. It is expected to break through late on Wed. Aug. 29. At the time of break through they will pound on the drill steel and lower microphones into the hole. There will also be a quiet time to listen for any sounds from the miners.

After this is completed the robot camera will be lowered into the seventh bore hole. It takes approximately six-seven hours to lower the camera. The families are being briefed once each day now at the Desert's Edge church in Huntington.

The command post for the Emery County Sheriff's Office at the junction of SR-31 and the Crandall Canyon mine road has been removed. The press conferences for MSHA updates are now being held at the Huntington park.

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