W.Va. Mine explosion

MSHA.gov and U.S. Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis released a statement on Saturday (4-10-10) on “the death of 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch South Mine.” This MSHA report confirms that the 4 miners who remained unaccounted for after the initial accident have passed away as a result of, or in the aftermath of the explosion.

We offer our sincere condolences to the families and friends of all 29 miners who lost their lives in this tragedy. We offer our heartfelt thanks to those who were so quick to respond after the accident and who took part in the rescue efforts. The hard work and dedication of these miners and 375,000 miners across the country, as well as the many thousands of rescue workers and volunteers demonstrate the community and brotherhood of this industry. As the National Mining Association’s statement on this tragedy rightly noted. “These selfless people represent the best of the American character.”

Our thoughts and prayers remain with the people of Raleigh County, West Virginia in this time of mourning and loss.


Update 4-7-10: In the initial distribution of our monthly newsletter today, we noted that MSHA and media reports had indicated a possible cause for the explosion in the Big Branch Mine. This report was apparently speculation on the part of a reporter. Upon further investigation, we have confirmed that MSHA investigators are not yet stating a cause for the explosion.

To confirm: to our knowledge there have been no — repeat NO — conclusive determinations of what might have caused the explosion. We are awaiting the completion of MSHA investigations for a final determination.
Update: 4-6-10: MSHA and several media outlets are reporting that 25 miners were killed as a result of yesterday’s explosion and another 4 are unaccounted for.

Rescue efforts were halted early this morning because of “dangerously high levels of methane gas.” Drill holes are being sunk into the mine to help with venting the gas so rescuers can return.

Officials hoped the four miners still unaccounted for were able to reach airtight chambers stocked with food, water and enough oxygen for them to live for four days, but rescue teams checked one of two such chambers nearby and it was empty. The buildup of gases prevented teams from reaching other chambers, officials said.

Original Post: 4-5-10
We have just learned that there has been an explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia. Details are still very limited. However, the AP is reporting that 6 miners were killed and a further 21 are currently unaccounted for.

Six miners were killed and at least 21 unaccounted for Monday in an explosion at an underground coal mine, the state mining director said.

Ron Wooten said the blast was reported around 3 p.m. at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County, about 30 miles south of Charleston. The company did not provide details on the extent of the damage. A Boone County ambulance dispatcher also said he has the same number of fatalities and missing miners.

The mine is operated by Massey subsidiary Performance Coal Co.

Mine emergency crews from the State Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training were headed to the scene, but agency spokeswoman Jama Jarrett had no more details.

The mining community is saddened by these reports of fatalities and would like to express our concerns for those miners who are unaccounted for. Our thoughts and prayers are with the miners, their friends and families, the rescue workers, and any others who have been impacted by this tragedy.

We would also like to reconfirm that the U.S. coal industry remains wholly committed to ensuring the safety of everyone who works in this industry. Much has been accomplished over the past several years to help ensure the safety of miners. However, this tragic explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine reminds us that this work is not done. We cannot rest until we reach the goal of no accidents in our country’s mines.

Click here to review the latest Mine Safety and Health Administration safety statistics.

05. April 2010 by Jason Hayes
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