Mountain quiet as Crandall Canyon rescue continues

NOW in its ninth day, crews underground progressed towards six trapped miners at Utah’s Crandall Canyon operation rapidly while work continued on a third vertical borehole to reach the group.

Donna Schmidt

Still no indication of their conditions has been determined, and there continued to be no communication between the miners and the surface. However, a third drill began sinking for a borehole, this one measuring approximately eight inches, on Monday evening.

As of Monday evening local time, the US Mine Safety and Health Administration verified progress of the underground crew:

“The continuous mining machine has finished activity in the 125 crosscut and has resumed clean-up in the No. 1 entry inby crosscut 124,” the agency said, adding that 31 mine rescue individuals remain underground along with two of the agency’s representatives.

However, mine co-owner Robert Murray of Murray Energy remained confident that the crews, working 24 hours a day, could reach the six trapped within five to seven days if all continued to proceed positively.

While he said conditions at Crandall Canyon are "extremely dangerous" – commenting Monday that conditions “are the worst that I have ever seen in my 50 years of mining" – he noted the seismic movement had quieted.

“I think the mountain has come to rest," Murray said.

In a conference Tuesday morning, he added rescue crews were working as rapidly as they were able to, given the steepness and difficulty of the mountainous terrain.

If the third vertical borehole does not produce results to determine the location of the miners, a fourth one will begin at the mine’s centre. While Murray noted that officials and crews would be “running out of possibilities” if the fourth hole is not successful in finding the men, he said there is a possibility that the underground debris at the mine’s entrance could be cleared by that time.

Officials pointed out that footage from a camera dropped down the second borehole showed relatively good roof conditions, with the majority of rubble coming from the ribs.

“We see a lot of open area,” said MSHA’s Al Davis. “We see good height. Space is what they need, and we saw a lot of space.”

Work continues feverishly below the surface, MSHA’s Richard Stickler underscored during the day: "We're doing the very best we can as fast as we can. You couldn't get another person into that working area.”

NMA responds to accident

As efforts continue to find the six miners trapped at Crandall Canyon, several industry groups have spoken out in support of those involved. Over the weekend, NMA president Kraig Naasz offered comment on behalf of the group.

“The National Mining Association and the entire mining community join with the nation in sending our thoughts and prayers to the Crandall Canyon miners and their families,” he said.

“We also extend our heartfelt thanks to the mine rescue professionals, all those who rushed equipment to the site, and local, state and federal responders who are courageously working to safely return the miners to their families,” he added, and thanked the surrounding Utah communities who have offered their assistance during the last nine days.

“The health and safety of our miners is the mining community’s number one priority,” Naasz stressed.

“The events of this week further underline the importance of the industry’s continued commitment to improving mine safety and to achieving a goal of zero fatalities in the nation's mines.”