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Genwal Resources, Inc. and
Murray Energy Corporation
Crandall Canyon Mine Collapse

Huntington, Emery County, Utah
August 6, 2007 - 6 killed
August 16, 2007 - 3 rescue workers killed

Crandall Canyon Mine by Mark R. Cronin

MSHA Final Investigation Report  (16 Mb)  PDF Format

Rescuer Deaths

On August 16, 2007, three rescue workers were killed and six others were injured when a seismic jolt caused a mine accident during an effort to reach six men who have been trapped at the Crandall Canyon Mine since August 6.  The six men initially killed were Kerry Allred, Luis Hernandez, Carlos Payan, Don Erikson, Manuel Sanchez, and Brandon Phillips.  The three killed during the attempted rescue were Federal Mine Inspector, Gary Jensen, Brandon Kimber and Dale Black.

Six Coal Miners Trapped in Utah, Murray Energy Says
Bloomberg - USA
By Christopher Martin
August 6, 2007

Six workers were trapped underground in a Utah coal mine after a roof collapse this morning and rescue crews were working to free them.

The miners were located about four miles from the entrance of mine, which is owned by closely held coal producer Murray Energy Corp.  The workers had not yet responded to radio calls from rescuers, Mike McKown, a spokesman for Murray, based in Pepper Pike, Ohio, said today in a phone interview.

"We're working on three ways to get them out safely,'' McKown said.

The force of the collapse was picked up by seismographs, prompting some initial reports that the accident had been caused by a weak earthquake.

Seismic activity near the mine may have been triggered by a roof collapse within it, rather than a separate earthquake causing the roof to fall, said Walter Arabasz, director of the University of Utah seismograph stations.  The rumblings he observed were "consistent with a mine-type collapse.''

Although he doesn't have all the information needed, he said it appears there was a roof-floor closure or possibly a pillar failure at the mine that caused the roof and floor to flex.  He's still waiting for an accurate timeline on the mine collapse.

"Since 1978, we have recorded approximately 20 mining- related earthquakes of 3.0 or above in that area of Utah,'' Arabasz said.  This morning's tremble, with a 4.0 magnitude at its epicenter, was considered a "light'' earthquake.

Rescue Help

Rocky Mountain Power, a unit of PacifiCorp that owns a nearby coal mine, sent a rescue team and heavy equipment to the scene to help, said spokesman Jeff Hymas.  No damage was recorded at their nearby Deer Creek mine, he said.

Murray's Crandall Canyon mine is part of its Genwal complex, which produced 604,975 tons of coal last year, according to the U.S. Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Mine safety regulators were notified of the accident at 5:40 a.m. New York time and have two inspectors inside the mine, said Dirk Fillpot, a spokesman for the administration.

Rescue teams were within 2,500 feet of where the trapped miners had planned to be working, about four miles from the mouth of the underground facility, Fillpot said in an interview.

Ten coal-mine workers have died in job-site accidents so far this year, a record low for this time of year, according to mine safety data.

3 Killed and 6 Injured in Rescue Effort at Mine
New York Times - United States
By Dan Frosch and Jennifer Lee
August 17, 2007

Huntington, Utah, Aug. 16 — Three rescue workers were killed and six others were injured last night when a seismic jolt caused a mine accident during an effort to reach six men who have been trapped at the Crandall Canyon Mine since Aug. 6, mining officials said.

The jolt happened about 6:30 p.m., according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Officials said the surviving workers suffered injuries including cuts and bruises and chest injuries.

At least 130 rescue workers are involved in the rescue operation, which has stretched 11 days.  Though it is unclear how many were working at the time of the accident, all other workers had been evacuated and accounted for last night, said Tammy Kikuchi, a spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Natural Resources.  Two of the injured men worked for the federal mine safety agency.

"It’s a devastating to blow to what was already a tragic situation," said Mayor Joe Piccolo of Price, Utah, who said his father was killed in a mining accident 50 years ago.

A flurry of ambulances and helicopters — some from as far as 140 miles away in Salt Lake City — descended on Crandall Canyon.  As one ambulance left, emergency medical technicians could be seen administering aid to a worker.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who was out of state at the time of the accident, rushed to Castleview Hospital in Price, about 25 miles from the mine, where six of the workers were originally taken and one of them died.  Two workers were flown to the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, which has a statewide trauma center, and two to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, where one was declared dead.

A spokesman for the federal mining agency said it was unclear whether rescue operations would resume Friday.

Rescue efforts have been plagued by frequent heaves and shudders in the mountain, which cause the walls to burst with debris.  On Wednesday night, one jolt caused a rib of the mine to burst, burying half of a continuous mining machine, which was being used to clear a path toward the trapped miners.

"This mountain is still alive," said Robert E. Murray, co-owner of the mine and president of Murray Energy.  "The seismic activity has just been relentless."

Seismic jolts, known as a bump in mining language, are often caused by compression of coal pillars and are most common in the deepest mines, like Crandall, where the pillars hold the most weight.  Over the last two decades, mines in Utah have pushed past depths of 1,500 feet, which had been considered an impassable barrier with older technologies and a depth where some experts believe coal reaches risky weight-bearing limits.

The men who were trapped in the Aug. 6 accident were working at depth of 1,800 feet when a movement of earth so strong that it had a magnitude of 3.7 caused a structural failure.  In the recovery effort, 826 feet of rubble have been cleared from the collapse.

Earlier Thursday, officials were briefly optimistic when listening devices called geophones detected five minutes of vibrations emerging from the mine on Wednesday, a sliver of hope in an agonizingly slow rescue effort.  Richard E. Stickler, director of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, said Thursday that it was unclear whether the noise emanated from the mine and that an animal or breaking rocks could have caused it.

"We have no idea where the vibrations originated," Mr. Stickler said.  He also said that although geophones had worked in tests, they had never successfully found a missing miner in an active mine.

Officials expected a bore hole being driven 1,586 feet near the origin of the noise to take two days to complete.  Three other bore holes have detected no signs of life.

Dan Frosch reported from Huntington, Utah, and Jennifer Lee from New York.

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