CONSOL team re-enters Buchanan Mine

IN THE early morning of Monday May 23, Consol Energy mine rescue teams were the first to re-enter Buchanan Mine near Keen Mountain in Virginia, USA.

Donna Schmidt

Consol and federal and state safety officials determined the mine atmosphere was stable and conditions safe for the first time since the mine, sealed since mid-February, commenced its reventilation process May 14. Eleven 10-member mine rescue teams, working in shifts of four teams at once, will now investigate and thoroughly examine the site, making essential repairs that will allow re-entry by mining employees at a date to be determined.

It is too early to speculate on a re-entry date for miners or a completion date on repairs at this stage, said Consol’s vice president of public relations Tom Hoffman. “They’re still in the inspection phase. But we are not seeing anything significant yet in terms of damage. We do know, and we expected this all along, that there was work that needed to be done on the ventilation, and repairing stoppings and overcast. They are seeing that, and that was expected.”

The teams, however, are making progress. “They have made it back to the longwall face. They’re not seeing anything so far that’s not repairable,” he said. “The next benchmark in this process will be when we are able to begin, with the rescue teams, doing some repair work.”

He said temporary repairs would be made by the mine rescue teams to the ventilation systems, and these repairs would be replaced with permanent renovations once the regular staff returns to the site.

The southern Virginia mine was sealed earlier this year after a cave-in behind the longwall mining machinery ignited methane that was thought to have started a fire underground. The Virginia Division of Mines, Minerals and Energy, as well as MSHA, have been working closely with Consol monitoring the mine environment, since its closing, from airshafts and surface boreholes.

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