This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Posted: 11:13 AM- WASHINGTON - The chairman of the U.S. Senate committee that oversees workplace safety today sought a massive load of documents relating to Utah's Crandall Canyon Mine.
That request, made to the Department of Labor, comes as congressional scrutiny begins of the coal mine where three rescue workers died last week, and six miners remained trapped and feared dead.
Meanwhile, another congressional committee has already scheduled the first of what could be many hearings on the mine disaster.
A Senate Appropriations subcommittee set a hearing for the day after the chamber resumes session, Sept. 5. It has asked for testimony by Richard Stickler, head of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration; Bob Murray, the co-owner of the Utah mine; and Cecil Roberts, head of the United Mine Workers of America.
In preparation for what could be another hearing, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who heads the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, asked Labor Secretary Elaine Chao for a laundry list of documents.
Among them are any petitions to change the mining plan at the site, and any inspections performed in the mine - along with any notes or memos between the mine operators and Mine Safety and Health Administration officials.
"The loss of life at the mine, and the devastating emotional toll on families of the victims, underscore the urgent need for a thorough examination of our federal system of mine safety," Kennedy said in a letter, noting it was his "duty" to investigate the causes of the tragedy and the aftermath.
"I am particularly troubled by reports that roof failures, similar in kind to the August 6 collapse, previously occurred in sections of the mine where retreat mining was being conducted, and that this roof failure may not have been reported to MSHA regulators as required by law," Kennedy added. "Such reports raise questions about the integrity of the mine operator's reporting and the rigor of MSHA inspections."
Kennedy's request likely is the first of many investigations Congress could launch into the Utah disaster.
Kennedy set a deadline of Sept. 6 for the department to reply.
A spokesman for the Department of Labor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.