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DOL/MSHA News Release
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Suzy Bohnert
Phone: (202) 693-9420

Released Thursday, March 25, 2004

MSHA Assistant Secretary Lauriski Cites Cooperation, Technology and Quick Decision-Making in Dotiki Mine Recovery

PROVIDENCE, Ky.--Cooperation, technology and quick decision-making contributed to the unusually quick recovery of the Dotiki Mine following an equipment fire in this underground coal operation, said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, as he visited the mine today in Nebo, Ky. The fire began Feb. 11 and shut down the mine for three weeks.

"We worked together to develop innovative solutions to problems caused by this fire. As a result, Dotiki's 360 miners were able to return to work quickly and safely. Most importantly, not one miner or mine recovery worker was injured during this effort," said Lauriski. "Conventional recovery methods usually require that recovery teams go underground to fight mine fires, which often takes weeks or months. This mine's evacuation plan was implemented quickly and efficiently. This effort should stand as a model on how industry and government can work together toward a common objective. In this case, that objective was to safely recover the mine and return all miners to their jobs."

Personnel from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals (KDMM) responded immediately to assist Webster County Coal, LLC, in combating the fire at its mine. The blaze started with a diesel supply tractor.

MSHA's mine emergency operations team established surface monitoring points in and around the area of the fire. The data it collected assisted the company in developing a plan to install remote seals from the mine's surface. These temporary seals in the main passageways cut off the air supply approximately 3.5 miles from the fire and isolated the fire from the sealed mine works.

The remote seal plan required that 18 seals be pumped from the mine surface, at an average depth of 620 feet. Seal locations were determined, and five drill rigs then drilled 18 injection, five observation, and seven monitoring holes. Surface drilling began on Feb. 12 and continued until Feb. 26. Inert gases were injected into the fire area and continuously monitored by MSHA's technical support personnel. Through inert injection and state-of-the-art monitoring techniques, the team identified flow patterns through the fire area. These flow patterns helped determine the most effective sequence to install the remote seals. The injection of the remote seals began on Feb. 20 and ended on Feb. 27.

Mine rescue teams from MSHA, KDMM and Alliance Coal, LLC, the parent company of the mine, re-entered the mine on Feb. 28 to evaluate the atmosphere and restore ventilation. After restoring ventilation, miners constructed 32 permanent seals around the fire area, finishing on March 3. A thorough examination of the mine followed, allowing resumed coal production at Dotiki on March 8.