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MSHA News Release No. 95-032
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: (703) 235-1452

August 8, 1995

REPORT RELEASED ON COLLAPSE, FLOODING OF NEW YORK SALT MINE

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has released its detailed investigative report on the March 1994 roof fall and consequent flooding at the Akzo Nobel Salt, Inc., Retsof Mine, an underground salt mine, in Retsof, N.Y.

Agency investigators concluded that abnormal geological conditions over the mine caused the ground to collapse, fracturing the aquifers which allowed large quantities of water to flow continuously into the mine. The collapse occurred in an area of the mine where smaller support pillars, known as yield pillars, were used to maintain underground openings. There were no injuries to any workers at the mine.

"This report concludes the Federal investigation of this unusual accident," said J. Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "Although it appears the Retsof Mine is lost, we can be thankful that no one was killed or seriously injured in this incident or during the ensuing recovery efforts."

According to the report, a collapse of at least 30 feet of the roof over a section of the Retsof Mine, located in Livingston County, occurred early in the morning of March 12, 1994, and ground water from the strata overlying the collapsed area immediately began to flow into the mine. The collapse occurred in an abandoned area of the mine. Seven miners, who were underground at the time in another section of the mine, were unharmed and safely evacuated. Mine rescue teams entered the mine in attempts to determine the extent of the damage and recover the mine.

In weeks following the collapse, repeated attempts to pump water from the mine eventually failed and uncontrollable accumulations of explosive methane gas forced several evacuations of the mine. As ventilation was restored, mining resumed and continues today in production panels away from the collapsed areas of the 18-square-mile Retsof Mine.

Water continues to pour into the mine at rates reaching 18,000 gallons per minute. The Retsof Mine is expected to close by the end of the summer and will be totally inundated by the end of 1995.

MSHA enforces Federal regulations that protect the safety and health of miners. The agency is also responsible for investigating all serious mining accidents in the United States.

A limited number of copies of the report on the Retsof Mine collapse are available from MSHA's Geneva Field Office located at 609 West Washington St. in Geneva, NY. For directions, call 315-789-0522.