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DOL News Release No. 04-2121
U.S. Department of Labor
Contact: Kate Dugan
Phone: (215) 861-5101

Released Thursday, October 14, 2004

Federal Mine Safety Agency Transfers Legendary Rescue Capsule
MSHA Awards More than $2 Million in Grants and Contracts


SOMERSET, Pa. - The bright, yellow steel capsule that successfully extracted nine Pennsylvania coal miners from 240 feet beneath the earth's surface in July 2002 has a new home. During an afternoon news conference at the site of the now-famous Quecreek mine rescue in Somerset, Pa., the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) transferred its rescue capsule to the Quecreek Mine Rescue Foundation near Somerset, Pa. MSHA also announced more than $2 million in funding to digitize mine maps and detect underground mine voids.

"Two years ago, our nation witnessed one of the greatest rescue operations in the history of mining," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "For the nine men trapped underground for nearly four days, this capsule represented lives saved and prayers answered. It is a testament to the fortitude and hard work of the men and women who never gave up until the last man was freed. I can't think of a more appropriate location to display this capsule than here at this site."

The miners became trapped by a huge inundation of water unleashed when they inadvertently broke through an adjacent abandoned mine. A faulty mine map that failed to accurately pinpoint the location of the abandoned mine was the key factor in the accident.

On behalf of MSHA, Lauriski presented a $1 million grant to the State of Pennsylvania to digitize mine maps. The agency also awarded a contract of $759,838 to Pennsylvania State University and two contracts of $229,420 and $71,290 to D'Appolonia Engineering to study void detection in underground mines.

In the wake of the incident at Quecreek, Congress appropriated $10 million in special funding for the detection of mine voids and mine map digitization programs.

"This past quarter-century represents a revolutionary time in America's mines," said Lauriski. "With rapid advances in technology and stronger health and safety standards, the industry has experienced changes that no one could have imagined. In fact, we now have record low fatalities and injury rates. These grants will further our ability to protect miners and help us reach the mining industry's goal - to head toward zero fatalities and injuries.

The Quecreek Mine Rescue Foundation is a nonprofit charitable organization established on the 212-year-old Dormel Farm property in Somerset "to maintain a memorial to, and promote tourism/goodwill associated with, the 2002 rescue of the Pennsylvania miners."