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Front Page » October 25, 2007 » Local News » U.S. Senate Funds Study After Disaster at Crandall Canyon
Published 2,902 days ago

U.S. Senate Funds Study After Disaster at Crandall Canyon

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Sun Advocate reporter

Old Glory flies at half-mast from a flag pole located adjacent to the road to Crandall Canyon mine, serving as a solemn reminder of August's disaster.

In the wake of the Crandall Canyon disaster, the United States Senate has allocated more than $1 million for the study of deep mine and safety operations.

A press release from Utah Sen. Bob Bennett detailed the funding of more than $4 million in projects aimed at progressing health care and mining in Utah.

"The tragedy at Crandall Canyon mine struck a chord with not only Utahns but all Americans," pointed out Bennett. "I appreciate the quick action and interest by my colleagues in the Senate to further examine the implications of deep coal mining."

The money was obtained via an amendment to Bennett's appropriations bill, co-authored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, that earmarks the funds for a study to be conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, University of Utah and West Virginia University. The study will evaluate the practices and safety implications of deep mining.

The U.S. Senate are not the only entity with an eye on improving the knowledge and training available for deep underground mining.

The Utah Mine Safety Commission has heard testimony from industry officials, management agencies and educational personnel who stressed the need to know more about the dangers of continuing to mine under deep cover. reports that cover is defined as the amount of soil and or rock above a mining site.

A mine opening is made by tunneling from the surface down to the elevation of the coal seam.

Mining is typically conducted using a longwall or room and pillar method with continuous coal extraction equipment.

Coal is then transported to the surface by conveyor belts.

In the western U.S., many coal operations are located under large mountains, according to the Utah Mining Safety Commission.

At the commission's Oct. 9 meeting, Robert Topping stressed the fact that mining innovation and educational technology needs to come from Utah.

"Studies conducted always show southeastern Utah as the epicenter for energy innovation. We can't compete with other areas in energy production but what we can do lead the way for energy related innovation." said Topping.

During the last week in August, 178 Castle Valley coal miners were laid off as UtahAmerican Energy attempted to bolster the safety at the company's Tower coal production facility.

The Tower mine runs one of the deepest longwall operations in the western United States.

Robert Murray, owner of UtahAmerican, detailed the problems at Tower for the media during the last phases of the rescue operation at Crandall Canyon.

"Due to the depth of the workings at the Tower mine and the unforeseen seismic events at the Crandall Canyon mine. I feel compelled to take further action at the Tower mine to ensure the safety of my miners by having engineering studies done on the longwall," stated Murray.

UtahAmerican announced plans for major changes at Tower including changes to the longwall shields by adding equipment that requires the shields be removed from the mine.

Changes are also being made to the longwall.

"We wanted to develop a fiber-optic camera system to be installed on the sheer whereby the longwall could be operated from hundreds of feet away," said Murray in late August. "In that regard, we have been working with Joy Manufacturing and two weeks ago we told them that we needed to accelerate this effort."

At press time, there was no formal release from UtahAmerican commenting on the progress of the Tower facility.

Workers who were laid off from the three UtahAmerican mines were offered positions at Murray's operations in the mid-west. According to workforce services officials, some took the positions while others have decided to collect their unemployment insurance while waiting for the mine to reopen or other mines to start hiring.

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