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DOL News Release No. 01-321
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Rodney Brown
Phone: (703) 235-1452

Released Monday, September 24, 2001

MSHA RESPONDS TO ALABAMA MINE EMERGENCY
Explosion Results in Casualties


WASHINGTON -The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is closely monitoring activities and has specialized equipment en route to assist in the emergency at the mine explosion that left several dead and several missing at the Jim Walter Resources, Inc.'s No. 5 Mine, near Brookwood, Tuscaloosa County, Ala.

At about 5:45 p.m. Central Time, Jim Walter Resources reported to MSHA that a roof fall had occurred at the mine followed by an ignition of methane gas, and that miners were unaccounted for. MSHA immediately placed a control order on the mine site under which MSHA must evaluate for safety and approve all actions taken during the emergency.

"MSHA officials have been at the mine all night and will remain as long as the emergency continues," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "There have been fatalities, and our hearts go out to the families of the miners who have lost their lives. Other miners are missing, and we are working with the company and the miners' representatives as they make plans to reach the missing miners while safeguarding the teams. "

This morning, rescue teams were withdrawn from the mine after they encountered elevated levels of methane gas, which indicate danger of another potential explosion. MSHA's mobile gas analysis laboratory and communications center are expected to arrive at the mine today.

Further updates will be posted on MSHA's Web site at www.msha.gov.

Once the emergency is over and the mine is made safe for investigators, MSHA will conduct a complete investigation into the accident, Lauriski said.