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MSHA News Release No. 99-0514
Mine Safety and Health Administration - USDOL
Contact: Rodney Brown
Phone: 703-235-1452

Released Friday, May 14, 1999 Alert Issued One Day Before Oklahoma Drowning
Mine Safety Agency Reiterates Warning on Hazards, Dangers Found at Abandoned Mines


In the wake of Tuesday's drowning at the Pine Mountain Mine in LeFlore County, Okla., the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is reiterating its annual warning concerning the hazards found at abandoned or inactive mine sites.

"I am deeply saddened by this tragic accident," said Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "And my condolences go out to the family of Ladonna Johnson. This accident should serve to remind us all of the many hazards that may be encountered at abandoned mine sites."

> On Mon., May 10, MSHA issued a nationwide alert concerning abandoned mines as the agency announced its "Stay Out - Stay Alive" national safety campaign. The campaign marshals grassroots organizations to reach out to schools and community groups across the nation to warn kids about the hazards found at abandoned mine sites.

At Monday's campaign announcement McAteer told a group of Pennsylvania school kids, "Any locale with active or abandoned quarries, mines or pits could become the scene of the next tragedy. This month, mining community organizations are reaching out to schools and communities to spread the message: Mine sites make lousy playgrounds and swimming holes."

The nationwide alert issued Monday by MSHA reads in part, "Abandoned underground mines often contain decaying timbers, loose rock and tunnels that can collapse at any time. They, along with active mines, may harbor undetectable and deadly gases such as methane and carbon monoxide.

"Unsuspecting swimmers in rock quarries may develop cramps from the icy temperatures, and divers may miscalculate the water's depth. Beneath the surface, pieces of mining equipment may be left behind after a quarry operation shuts down, including old machinery, barbed-wire fencing, ropes that entangle swimmers and sharply edged glass.

MSHA has established a site on its web page to serve as a central clearinghouse from which mine hazard awareness materials and resources may be downloaded. The web address is www.msha.gov. Links to related sites put even more tools at the disposal of any group or individual interested in participating in this safety awareness campaign.

MSHA has responsibility for inspection of all active mining operations in the U.S. and enforcement of regulations designed to protect working miners.