Flooded WV mine still closed

A SOUTHERN West Virginia slope mine where seven workers were trapped over the weekend due to flood waters is still idled because of water-related issues, state officials have told ILN.

Donna Schmidt

According to West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training spokesperson Jama Jarrett, water was still being pumped from Alpha Natural Resources’ Mountaineer Alma A mine in Mingo County as of Monday morning. Power was also lost at the mine during Saturday’s flood, but restoration work is being performed.

While Jarrett did not indicate whether any damage was done to equipment, she did confirm that some mine seals were knocked out underground so water could be pumped from other locations and that those stoppings would need to be replaced.

The agency also confirmed for ILN the identities of the trapped men, all of whom had sufficient food and water for the 24-hour period they spent underground.

The crew included foreman Larry Cantrell, electrician Wayne Kennedy, fireboss and general labourer Scott Varney, and general labourers Randall Townsend, Randy Attwood, John Dillon and Robert Canada. Attwood, Dillon and Canada are independent contractors for local industry staffer TMK Personnel Services and Canada is a red hat.

Only the seven workers remained at the mine by the morning hours of Saturday because additional crew members had left early to battle rising flood waters on the roadways and near their homes, Jarrett said.

The trapped men were able to walk out of the mine on Sunday at about 6am local time, when they were evaluated by emergency medical services.

However, none were treated for injuries. “[They were] just cold and tired,” she noted.

The company is now working to get the mine operational again, but the state has not ordered a closure.

Jarrett noted that, despite loss of power, a two-way communication system installed at Mountaineer kept the workers in touch with the surface, including their homes, during the ordeal.

“Miners spoke with company and state officials, and with their families,” she said. “The communication system utilises a dispatcher on the surface that patch[ed] them through to hard lines.”

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