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Front Page » March 11, 2008 » Local News » News
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Senator Mike Dmitrich addresses the crowd at the Southeastern Utah Energy Producers Association banquet held in November 2007.

Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich will not seek re-election in 2008. This year, he will celebrate his 72nd birthday, having served the majority of his lifetime in the Utah Legislature. "It's time," he says, "to move on."

Senator Dmitrich was elected to the Utah House of Representatives in 1968 at the age of 31 and has served continuously in the House and Senate for 40 years, honorably representing Utah's citizens in eastern and southern Utah. In 1991, while serving in the House, he was appointed to the Utah State Senate and then elected to the Senate in 1992. Since 2001, he has served as the Senate Minority Leader. While in the House, he also served as House Minority Leader from 1983 to 1990. Throughout his political career, he has been a resounding voice for public and higher education and for the health and economic stability of Utah's families. Backed by 30 years of experience in the coal mining industry, he has served on many natural resources committees and provided invaluable expertise to the state. This past year, he served on the governor's Utah Mine Safety Commission following the mining accident at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Emery County.

Senator Dmitrich and his wive Bo reside in Price USA (as he calls it). They are parents of three and grandparents of three. Senator Dmitrich is looking forward to spending more time with his family and more time (you guessed it) playing the wonderful game of golf.

Senator Dmitrich remarked, "I would like to thank the constituents of the districts I have represented over the years for allowing me the privilege of serving them in the Utah Legislature. I also appreciate the friendships I have formed on both sides of the aisle during my legislative career."

Clifford Oviatt along with his wife Verlynn have been busily preparing the new mural at the Museum of the San Rafael. This mural will serve as the back drop for the new dinosaur which will be unveiled on March 27. The dinosaur replica is one that was found by Ramal Jones of Castle Dale just below Castle Dale in the desert. His wife Carole also has a dinosaur named in her honor and was found in nearly the same location. To honor this historic occasion "A night at the Museum" will be held at the Museum of the San Rafael on March 27 at 6 p.m. featuring the newest nodosaur Animantarx-ramaljonesi. A coloring contest will be announced that night, along with tours, an open house, and slide show. Unveiling of the dinosaur will be held at 6 p.m.

Lori Huntington shaves the mustache off Principal Ed Clark at Cleveland Elementary. Inset photos show the new Ed Clark, without the mustache and Mrs. Clark joins Mr. Clark for a look at the clean shaven face.

Ed Clark, principal at the Cleveland Elementary told his school if they could raise $500 for a service project that he would shave off his mustache of 25 years.

The second grade class of Jodi Sitterud then went to work. They made posters telling what Mr. Clark would do and invited the whole school to participate in raising the money.

The service project chosen by the second grade class was to make blankets and gather stuffed animals, coloring books and crayons to donate to the children's justice center and women's shelter.

Cathy Anderson from the domestic violence coalition was on hand at the assembly to accept the gifts from the school and the second graders.

She told the school that sometimes situations arise where the children need some comfort items and she thanked the classes for their help. The second graders involved helped load the treasures in Anderson's car for transporting to the shelter.

Lori Huntington, peer helper director, had the opportunity to cut off the mustache. She shaved half off first and then the other half while the studentbody of Cleveland Elementary cheered their principal.

He said he would wait maybe a week and then he would start to grow it back as his face feels a bit bare and susceptible to the cold weather.

Altogether the students raised $520 for the project.

Rep. Kay McIff has just finished his second year in the Utah Legislature. He would like to meet with Emery County residents on March 11 at 7 p.m. in the county building, upstairs, in Castle Dale. Ths will be an informational meeting where he will discuss the past legislative session and how it affects Emery County. He will answer questions from his constitutents at this time.

Senate report released on mine disaster

Editors Note: The following is the text from Sen. Ted Kennedy's report on the Crandall Canyon mine disaster. This report will be printed in a continuing series about the mine disaster. It is to be noted this report is from the Senate and not from the investigative team from the Mine, Health and Safety Administration. Senators Bennett and Hatch issued a word of caution at taking the whole report as fact and will draw their final conclusions after all the investigations have been completed.


In the early morning hours of Aug. 6, 2007, a large mountain "bounce" occurred in the Main West section of Crandall Canyon mine. "Bounce" is the technical term used to describe a collapse of this type in a mine, but it does not capture the force and explosive power of the event - "blast" would be much more apt.

In such a powerful release of seismic energy, the coal in the pillars and walls of the mine, under extreme pressure, literally explode into mined out areas. Notes taken by the first Mine Safety and Health Administration inspector to descend into the mine after the collapse graphically describe the massive force unleashed by the event: "roof bolts were sheared off�direction of force had come from the North." "some areas, coal was pulverized." "with the amount of rubble in the entries five to six feet deep, could anyone manage to survive the initial release of energy�"

The bounce registered 3.9 on the Richter scale. According to the United States Geological Survey, a seismic event of magnitude 4 is equivalent to detonating 15 tons of TNT. In this case, seismic records show that the blast lasted for four minutes.

Another inspector who examined the scene soon after the explosion wrote that mine walls were "blown as far as 45 feet from origin." Six miners were working in the area at the time of the collapse: Kerry Allred, Don Erickson, Luis Hernandez, Juan Carlos Payan, Brandon Phillips, and Manuel Sanchez. All are presumed dead.

Tragically, a second powerful bounce occurred on Aug. 16, killing MSHA inspector Gary Jensen and miners Dale Ray Black and Brandon Kimber, all of whom were working on rescue operations at the time.(Map from "Preliminary Seismological Report on the 6 August 2007 Crandall Canyon Mine Collapse," James C. Pechmann, Walter J. Arabasz, Kris L. Pankow, Relu Burlacu, Michael K. McCarter, Seismograph Stations and Department of Mining Engineering, University of Utah.)

This report does not examine the extensive and complex rescue effort which began on the morning of the collapse and effectively ended on Aug. 31. Nor does it seek to determine the cause of the Aug. 6 and Aug. 16 fatal collapses.

The Secretary of Labor has tasked an Accident Investigation Team with determining the proximate cause of these events - its work is ongoing. Instead, this report examines (1) how mine operating company Murray Energy Corporation ("Murray Energy") conceived, designed, and tested its plans to mine the barrier pillars in the Main West section and (2) MSHA's review of those plans and its monitoring of safety conditions during mining of the barrier pillars.

These events stretch back a year prior to the accident to when Murray Energy purchased the mine in August 2006. It is important to note that the mining operations proposed by Murray Energy, and approved by MSHA, at Crandall Canyon were among the most dangerous ever attempted.

In a March 10, 2007 internal memo to Murray Energy, CEO Robert Murray - one day before a near-tragic roof collapse in the North barrier pillar - company executive Bruce Hill wrote that "We are now approaching 2,000 feet of cover. MSHA has never allowed pillar recovery at this depth."

Given the extreme risk posed by these mining operations, the mine operator, its technical consultants, and MSHA should have taken the most conservative, cautious approach possible. The investigation has uncovered multiple failures in both the company's formulation and MSHA's review of the mining plans at Crandall Canyon.

As conceived by the company and its technical consultant, Agapito Associates, the plans posed serious safety risks that were either ignored or not detected during the planning process. In addition, MSHA's review of the plans was neither complete nor sufficiently rigorous.

Indeed, mining expert and former MSHA engineer Robert Ferriter described MSHA's review of Crandall Canyon's mine plan as a "broken system." Even setting aside the plan itself, there were multiple warning signs during mining operations - such as heightened seismic activity and a major mine bounce in March 2007- that should have raised red flags for both MSHA and the company.

However, the company seems to have dismissed these warning signs and failed to bring them to MSHA's attention (as they promised they would). This report is not an attempt to rewrite history.

Even if all of the flaws and mistakes in the plan review process had been corrected and safety monitoring was rigorous, we will never know whether mining in the South barrier would have gone forward and whether the collapses would have occurred. But our mine safety laws exist to ensure that, before miners are exposed to the massive, often unpredictable hazards of working underground, operators and regulators have done everything they can to minimize the risk of injury or death. Lapses, flaws, and mistakes of the type uncovered by the investigation cannot be tolerated.

Executive Summary: Findings Of Fact And Recommendations.

Findings of fact 1) The Crandall Canyon Mine posed significant risks prior to the disaster. The record compiled by the investigation shows that Murray Energy was operating a dangerous mine in a potentially dangerous manner, was lax about or hostile to safety, and was bullying a compliant MSHA. Murray Energy's safety record is well below average and was poor at Crandall Canyon Mine in particular.

These problems resulted from a cavalier attitude towards safety among senior management. Many Crandall Canyon officials in the middle to lower ranks were vigilant about safety training and minimizing hazards, but several managers - including company's CEO, Robert Murray - showed a combative attitude towards MSHA enforcement, and sought to pressure MSHA inspectors.

An Oct. 24, 2006 email about a meeting between MSHA officials and Robert Murray, highlights an example of such pressure: Mr. Murray also got vocal on the issue of Tim Thompson having inspectors put a closure order on his longwall and that he complained to someone in Congress about it and that Mr. Thompson resultantly lost his job. Mr. Murray did state that he did not have Thompson fired, but that he would not stand by to be treated wrongly and would complain.

Unfortunately, on some occasions, MSHA officials buckled under the pressure, agreeing to "pull back on enforcement."

At Crandall Canyon, Murray Energy was attempting one of the most hazardous types of mining - retreat mining under deep overburden, which subjects pillars being mined to extreme stresses.

In spite of these risks to miner safety, Murray Energy failed to (1) design and propose a mining plan that was as safe and conservative as possible and (2) take action to protect miners when it became apparent that mining conditions were rapidly deteriorating.

2) The Crandall Canyon disaster raises serious questions about every level of the plan formulation and MSHA review process. This report focuses on Murray Energy's mining of the North and South barrier pillars in Main West and MSHA's review and approval of the company's mining plans. The Aug. 6 accident occurred in the South barrier pillar, but Murray Energy had been mining in the Main West area for almost a year.

A full understanding of these prior mining activities and accompanying seismic conditions is essential to a realistic retreat mining (also known as "pillar extraction," "pillar recovery," "pulling pillars," or "robbing pillars") refers to the practice of removing all or part of the pillars left after room and pillar mining has been completed. "Removing support during retreat mining can lead to roof falls, so the pillars are removed in the opposite direction from which the mine advanced: hence the term 'retreat mining.'" (

"Overburden" or "cover" refers to the amount of rock above the area being mined. Greater overburden translates to greater stress and pressure on the coal pillarsassessment of the factors that led to the Aug. 6 tragedy.

The investigation has uncovered evidence of multiple failures in the company's formulation, and MSHA's review, of plans to mine the barrier pillars a) The initial plan should not have been proposed. The plan, conceived and designed by the company and its technical consultant, Agapito Associates, posed serious safety risks that were either ignored or not detected during the planning process.

During the formulation and review of the plan, Murray Energy and MSHA either ignored or missed important facts about the mine's safety history that were clearly relevant to a safety assessment.

Before Murray Energy purchased Crandall Canyon, both the mine's previous owner, Andalex Resources, and federal officials considered the Main West area too dangerous for retreat mining and decided to seal it. During a visit to the mine to consider the request to seal it, a Bureau of Land Management inspector noted hazardous safety conditions in Main West.

The prior owners also submitted a mine plan to the Utah mine regulatory agency describing how barrier pillars - which Murray Energy later proposed to mine - would be left to guarantee stability.

The investigation has found serious flaws in the reports by Agapito Associates, Inc., which the company and MSHA heavily relied upon in determining that the mining plans were safe. As a result, the roof control plan and MSHA's subsequent review of the plan were compromised by flawed and overly optimistic safety assumptions.

The record shows that Agapito's work was flawed in multiple respects and "unconservative," according to a post-accident analysis by expert mine engineers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Evidence in the record indicates that Agapito relied on incorrect mine depth data, leading it to miscalculate the overburden in the retreat mining areas. Precise calculation of overburden is needed to accurately assess the risk of pillar extraction, since the pressure on pillars intensifies as the overburden increases.

The initial plan should not have been approved. It is important to distinguish between the "mains" in Main West and the barrier pillars protecting the mains.

"Mains," also knows as "main entries," are roads or shafts in a coal mine that serve as primary roads for haulage and the main ventilation supply. Thus, the references above to pillars in Main West refer to the pillars holding up the roof in these main tunnels, not the barrier pillars on each side of the mains that Murray Energy later mined.

"Evaluation and Control of Coal Bumps," Sept. 28, 2007, Office of Mine Safety and Health Research, NIOSH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and HumanMSHA did not rigorously or thoroughly review and test the proposed plan and Agapito's technical analyses supporting it. In the one instance where an MSHA employee did thoroughly evaluate Agapito's work, his conclusions were rejected by MSHA supervisors after conversations with Murray Energy officials.

This record demonstrates the need for (1) the use of more cautious and conservative engineering assumptions in safety analyses of deep cover mining, and (2) more rigorous and thorough review by regulators of technical analyses submitted by mine operators.4 c) The plan should not have been pursued as conditions worsened.

The company ignored multiple warning signs during mining - including heightened seismic activity and a major mine bounce - that should have raised red flags about safety conditions.

During mining of the North barrier pillar in early 2007 - just 900 feet from where the August 6 tragedy occurred - there were multiple signs of instability: A February 7 report describes "unpredictable rolling out rib conditions�in Main West:"5 Exhibit 6 During the retreat mining, a March 7 report by a shift foreman states that the mine was "bouncing real hard on occasion. Smacked little Carlos up aside of the haid [sic] with a pretty good chunk." Exhibit 7.

A March 10, 2007 internal memo conclusively establishes that company management, including CEO Robert Murray, was aware of the instability in the North barrier pillar. The memo to Murray stated that "The mine is experiencing heavy bouncing and rib sloughage."6 Beside this description, Murray wrote "noted." Exhibit 2. On March 11, a large bounce occurred in the North barrier and damaged nearly 800 feet of the mine, leading Murray Energy to abandon the area and seal it. The record strongly suggests that the law required the company to formally report the incident, but the company failed to do so.

4 NIOSH and MSHA classify "deep cover" mines as those in which more than 750 feet of rock (in mining terminology, "overburden") lie above the mining face. Crandall Canyon Mine falls within this category since, at its deepest point, the mine lies below 2,200 feet of rock. 5 Ribs are the walls of tunnels in underground coal mines. More technically, ribs are the side of a pillar or the wall of an entry. 6 Ribs or pillars "slough" coal when coal falls off or slides down the wall onto the floor of the entry. Mine experts recognize sloughage as a sign that the pillar or rib is being subjected to stress or pressure from the rock overlaying the tunnel (known as "overburden" or "cover"). See, e.g., Improving Safety At Small Underground Mines, Robert H. Peters, Bureau of Mines, 1994, found at ("Normally stable pillar line conditions often deteriorate if the pillar line moves slowly or remains idle for an extended amount of time. This deterioration can manifest itself in the form of excessive sloughage, heave, and squeezes�.When the pillar line moved slowly or remained idle over the weekend or during a miner's vacation, normally stable pillars began to take weight, as evidenced by sloughage�").

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