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Front Page » September 4, 2007 » Local News » Mayor defends mine safety panel as robot enters drill hol...
Published 2,953 days ago

Mayor defends mine safety panel as robot enters drill hole four

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Sun Advocate reporter

The seventh borehole broke through at the Crandall Canyon mine at approximately 4 a.m. on Aug. 30, but officials found only a two and one-half foot void and non-breathable air.

The hole began to fill immediately with mud and crews were forced to move to a different location for insertion of the robotic camera.

As rescue crews continue efforts in Huntington Canyon, local and state officials included in the newly formed Utah Mine Safety Commission have started the panel's information gathering endeavor.

According to Price mayor and commission member Joe Piccolo, the state safety panel is comprised of chairman Scott Matheson; executive secretary John Baza, director of the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining; Dennis O'Dell, United Mine Workers of America; Utah Sen. Mike Dmitrich of the Utah Senate; former United States Sen. Jake Garn; Hillary Gordon, Huntington mayor; Davit Litvin of the Utah Mining Association: and Utah Rep. Kaye McIff.

The state commission conducted the panel's first meeting via phone conference on Aug. 27.

"Our first meeting centered around the scope of what the committee would like to accomplish," explained Piccolo. "As a group, we felt that safety, prevention and response were some of the issues we felt most strongly about."

Piccolo reported that the commission has not been chartered to be investigative in nature. Instead, the members would focus the panel's energies on accumulating information and compare Utah coal production operations with the safety of other mines in the U.S. and with different industries in general.

"I would like to make it clear that this board is not out to shut down mines in Utah. The committee knows the value of coal mining in Utah and especially in this area," pointed out Piccolo.

During the next couple of weeks, the Price mayor indicated that the committee plans to focus on what members can do to foster better communication between the group and the communities involved with coal mining.

As one of the first steps, Piccolo has taken the feedback he has received from the public to date and requested that the chairman form a new portion of the committee consisting of mine safety along with engineering experts.

"I have asked for a more technical committee," said Piccolo. "And the idea was well received and is under consideration by the chairman."

During a telephone interview last Friday, the Price mayor explained that the entire committee is sensitive to the needs of the public and wishes to remain flexible in order to support the community's wishes.

To promote communication, Piccolo asked the Sun Advocate to publish his contact information so Carbon County residents can discuss issues with him personally. Piccolo may be reached at 650-4493.

"I would hope that the community gives this committee a chance. I hope they give this body a chance to produce a positive outcome for this community," concluded Piccolo.

As the committee starts to gather information and pubinput, the rescue crews in Huntington Canyon continue to push on amid still another round of bad news, according to information provided by the Emery County Progress.

"The families were very quiet when the information was presented to them about the findings of the seventh hole," said U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration spokesperson Rich Kulczewski during an Aug. 30 press update.

"The families had held out hope that the miners might have retreated to the kitchen area after the original collapse," added the MSHA official.

Kulczewski indicated that robotic experts are currently planning to try the electronic device in drill hole four because of previous luck with the conditions in that area of the mine and because of the muddy, rock conditions encountered at hole seven.

"We are disappointed but not deterred," said Kulczewski. "There were good pictures from hole four before, it showed large boulders in view and roof timbers and rubble. We will show everyone the pictures as soon as we get them. We are exhausting every possibility, we haven't run out of possibilities yet. We will try our best to see what we can still do."

Lawyers for the families of the trapped miners spoke at the press conference and let everyone know that while the bad news continues to be difficult for the families to take they are still holding out hope.

"They are still reeling," said family attorney Colin King. "But they maintain a glimmer of hope. They want to stick it out a while longer. They are not resolved to their fate."

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