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Posted: 7:36 PM- HUNTINGTON - Rescue organizers are expecting a new borehole to penetrate a tunnel deep in the Crandall Canyon mine Wednesday, hopeful that it will reveal that six trapped miners sought refuge there and are still alive.

The excavation of that 8-5/8-inch shaft, the third borehole drilled since the men were trapped by a massive cave-in at the mine on Aug. 6, began about 10 p.m. Monday. Two earlier boreholes revealed no signs of life underground.

Projected to be 1,415 feet long, the third borehole had been sunk more than 800 feet by 6 p.m. Tuesday, prompting mine co-owner Robert Murray, president of Murray Energy Corp. and its subsidiary, UtahAmerican Energy, to predict a breakthrough later Wednesday.

If it does not yield any information about the fate of the miners - Kerry Allred, Juan Carlos Payan, Brandon Phillips, Manuel Sanchez, Don Erickson and Jose Luis Hernandez - rescue organizers are considering a fourth borehole that would explore a region in the middle of the mining section, an area less likely to be life-sustaining.

"At that point, we're running out of possibilities," Murray acknowledged at Tuesday's press briefing in Huntington Canyon.

He said the fourth borehole might not be necessary, however. He expects crews working underground to make rapid advances in clearing debris that filled the section's fresh-air tunnel when a "bump" occurred at 2:48 a.m. on Aug. 6.

Murray has blamed an earthquake for unleashing the seismic shocks that caused thousands of tons of coal to shoot into the tunnels from the walls. A number of seismologist dispute that, attributing the shock waves to the collapse of the mine's walls.

Murray produced a video Tuesday that showed the work being done in that tunnel - and by drill-rig crews on the steep-sloped mountain overhead - in the around-the-clock effort to reach the trapped miners.

Richard Stickler, head of the Mine Safety & Health Administration, emphasized that the underground video shot in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday "was not taken for the purposes of the press, but for the purposes of helping give family members [of the missing miners] some confidence and understanding of what we're up to."

In the video, Murray showed how crews were painstakingly erecting steel props and chain-link fencing to prevent more chunks of coal from shooting into the tunnel, potentially killing or injuring rescuers. He also pointed out the equipment being used to excavate the debris filling the tunnel and to haul it away.

Over the first eight days of the rescue effort, crews advanced just 750 feet up that tunnel. That leaves them 1,720 feet short of the area where the missing miners were cutting coal.

MSHA's Stickler said Tuesday that "rehabilitation work continues to go slow." Earlier, he predicted that forward movement through the next several hundred feet of tunnel will be even more difficult because it underlies the tallest portion of the mountain overhead and would be subject to the greatest pressure.

But Murray expressed optimism about prospects of picking up the pace, noting that "seismic activity has settled down. There's virtually none . . . We're not confronting what we were. We were confronting seismic shocks hourly, shiftly, as we were conducting the rescue effort."

Without that impediment, Murray said crews cleared 50 feet of tunnel in 18 hours Tuesday, "our best day yet." He also said he was bringing in extra equipment and 14 top managers from his operations in Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois as reinforcements.

Earlier aftershocks undid much of the initial tunnel-cleanup work and forced crews to evacuate the mine.

The borehole expected to pierce the mine today is targeting a "bleeder" tunnel in the deepest part of the mine. Organizers now theorize that if the miners had found their way out of the mine blocked by the extensive cave-ins, they would have retreated to that area and barricaded themselves inside using "brattice curtains" that are similar to thick tarps.

Those curtains could protect them from oxygen-deficient air introduced into the mining section by the collapse, Stickler said. Rescuers also believe the catastrophic collapse would have forced good air into the back of the mine, creating a survivable pocket for the miners.

To increase the supply of breathable air available to the men, rescuers have been pumping oxygen into the mine through the first two boreholes, drilled over the weekend into tunnels closer to where mining was taking place.

Stickler said that effort has increased the oxygen concentration around one of the boreholes from 7 percent, which will not sustain life for long, to a much healthier 15 percent. But he did not say how far that higher percentage would extend beyond the borehole.

Meantime, when the rescue operation is over, the Mine Safety & Health Administration will begin its investigation into the causes of the Crandall Canyon mine collapse. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education, Labor and Workforce Committee, is proposing legislation that would expand the role of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, a government agency that investigates chemical accidents, to enable it to conduct independent investigations into the root causes of mine disasters.