Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Mine Tragedy in Utah

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Mine Tragedy in Utah

Article excerpt


The Aug. 6 collapse at the Crandall Canyon mine in Emory County, Utah that left six miners trapped 1,500 feet below ground, as well as a second cave-in almost 2 weeks later that left three rescue workers dead, has unleashed a series of events that once again has put the mine industry and MSHA under scrutiny.

It still is unclear as to what triggered the cave-in. Government seismologists have claimed the seismic event recorded by instruments around the time of the collapse appeared to be the cave-in itself, not an earthquake. Robert Murray, chairman of Murray Energy Corp., a co-owner of the Crandall Canyon mine, insisted that an earthquake caused the mine collapse.

Rescue efforts started almost immediately following the collapse, but tragedy struck the mine again, when another cave-in killed three mine rescuers--one of them a MSHA inspector--and injured six others as they were attempting to tunnel through rubble and debris to reach the men.

According to MSHA, a significant "bounce"--a shift in pressure that shoots rock from the walls with great force--killed the rescuers.

As of this writing, a sixth hole is being drilled into the mountain in a last-ditch attempt to find the miners. The hole, which Murray says will be the last one, is being drilled in an area where the miners were last believed to have worked. Previous attempts to contact the trapped miners have been unsuccessful and have failed to show signs of life.

This latest mine tragedy has prompted labor leaders and legislators to question whether the state of mine safety in the United States has improved since passage of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act of 2006, which was signed following the Sago and Alma Mine disasters in West Virginia.

In a letter sent to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, Sen. …

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