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DOL Press Release - 05-1278-PHI
U.S. Department of Labor
Contact: Suzy Bohnert    Dirk Fillpot
Phone: (202) 693-9420    (202) 693-4676


Released Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Mine Reopening Assisted by Government Agencies, Mining Industry

ARLINGTON, Va.-The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) today announced that cooperation, technology, and quick decision-making contributed to the resumption of coal production at Buchanan No. 1 Mine, near Keen Mountain, Va. An underground fire started at the facility on Feb. 14 while 94 miners were underground.

"No miners or recovery workers were seriously injured during the evacuation or mine recovery," said David G. Dye, deputy assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "This is an excellent example of how the mining industry and government agencies can cooperate to put more than 400 people back to work safely and expeditiously."

Officials sealed the mine on Feb. 16 because of the fire. To reopen the mine safely, MSHA employees obtained gas samples at the mine and took air readings. Personnel from MSHA's Directorate of Technical Support analyzed more than 3,600 gas samples from the underground and surface and supplied expertise concerning mine ventilation and interpretations of the gas samples.

In the team effort, MSHA worked with officials from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) to review and approve reopening plans submitted by CONSOL Energy Inc., the parent company of Buchanan Mine. Based on these plans and the gas samples, the mine was reventilated on May 14.

Beginning May 23, CONSOL officials initiated underground exploration of the mine and used 12 rescue teams from Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania to conduct recovery efforts. Personnel from MSHA's Mine Emergency Unit and officials from the DMME accompanied the rescue teams underground. MSHA, DMME and CONSOL rescue teams safely completed their underground exploration on May 29, allowing Buchanan's work force to return to the mine on June 2 to continue underground repair work. The mine began limited coal production on June 13.

Buchanan is Virginia's largest mine, producing 4.4 million tons of coal annually.

MSHA's primary mission as a federal agency is to ensure worker safety and health in the nation's mines. Information about the agency can be viewed on the Internet at www.msha.gov.