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Crandall Canyon Mine: Weather hampers latest borehole efforts

Published August 28, 2007 1:15 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

HUNTINGTON - Several hours of steady rain on the mountain above the Crandall Canyon mine hindered efforts Monday to lower a robotic camera through a borehole to search for signs of six coal miners trapped underground for 22 days.

The downpour turned the hastily excavated dirt road to mud and caused boulders to slide onto the path from the steep hillside above, delaying the movement of equipment needed to send the robot down one borehole and to make preparations for drilling a seventh borehole into the Emery County mine.

But a preliminary attempt to slip the 8-inch robot down the 8 -inch shaft did not encounter problems, suggesting the high-tech approach to gathering information about the mine's interior may work when the weather cooperates, said Colin King, an attorney for several families of missing miners Luis Alonso Hernandez, Don Erickson, Juan Carlos Payan, Brandon Phillips, Manuel Sanchez and Kerry Allred.

"They're going to try to do it again later [Monday] and they seem optimistic it's going to work," said King, briefing reporters after a 10-minute meeting between the families and federal Mine Safety and Health Administration officials.

MSHA earlier canceled its media briefing because there was limited information to disclose.

King said MSHA officials noted that the robotic camera was lowered part way through the 1,415-foot borehole No. 3, which was sunk into the far back end of the mine, an area that had the least structural damage seen yet from the violent Aug. 6 implosion of the mine's walls.

"But it didn't get very far because of the difficult weather conditions and technical problems which they didn't elaborate on," he said. MSHA did not indicate when work would begin on the seventh borehole, which is aimed at an area where miners typically eat lunch.

Despite the delay, King said, MSHA officials seemed eager to locate the missing men and were not giving up.

The families had criticized mine co-owner-operator Robert Murray for abandoning his pledge to recover the miners, dead or alive, after a second implosion on Aug. 16 killed three rescuers, injured six others and prompted outside ground-control experts to recommend an end to underground efforts to reach the section where the miners were working.

Murray reiterated Sunday that he intends to seal the mine after he removes mining equipment and ventilation-control materials from areas of the mine closer to the surface. At least three semi tractor-trailers hauled large pieces of mining equipment off the mine site and down Huntington Canyon on Monday.

Murray, meanwhile, left Price early Monday afternoon on a company jet and returned to Cleveland, where Murray Energy Corp. is headquartered.

Murray has other coal mines in Ohio and offered to provide jobs there, and at other Murray Energy operations in Illinois, to miners laid off over the weekend at his Tower and West Ridge mines in Carbon County.

Miners who accept the offer are supposed to depart for the Midwest by bus this morning.







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