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Statement by Dave D. Lauriski
Assistant Secretary of Labor
for Mine Safety and Health News Media Briefing
New Stanton, Pa.
August 1, 2002
Good afternoon.

Last week at this time employees of the Mine Safety and Health Administration were at the Quecreek Mine working to save nine trapped miners who emerged from the mine safely in the early hours of Sunday morning. (Quite a few of you were there too!)

This week we are beginning our investigation of the underground flood that trapped those miners in order to find ways to prevent a recurrence.

Before discussing the investigation, I would like to express our appreciation for the overwhelming community support of the whole rescue effort and of the miners and of their families. I would also like to thank all of the MSHA employees who participated in the rescue, as well as the many others -- including Pennsylvania state agencies, Black Wolf Coal Company personnel, and numerous private and nonprofit organizations -- that provided equipment, services, and support of all the rescuers and the miners' families.

And I would like to express special appreciation to the MSHA team here in New Stanton, Pennsylvania, and the other MSHA employees responding from around the country including our employees in Bruceton; Wilkes-Barre; Triadelphia, West Virginia. All of these people worked day and night until the rescue was accomplished.

There were approximately 50 MSHA employees on site at Quecreek, and many more back here in New Stanton who worked just as hard, providing essential support.

I can't say enough about their dedication, perseverance, and high professionalism. They deserve to feel very proud.

This week, we enter a new phase. We begin a thorough investigation into how the accident came to happen.

MSHA's Quecreek investigation team will be led by Pat Brady, District Manager of our Coal Mine Safety and Health District 4, which is headquartered in Mt. Hope, W.Va. Also included in the nine-member team are engineers and other mine safety and health specialists from:

MSHA's headquarters;
MSHA District offices throughout the country;
Our Pittsburgh Technical Support Center; and
Our mining equipment approval center in Triadelphia, W.Va.

Team members will contribute expertise in a range of mine safety specialties in order to assemble a complete picture of what took place.

MSHA accident investigators will:

Closely examine Quecreek mine records and maps;
Interview individuals who may have information relevant to the cause of the accident; and
Collect and review applicable physical evidence.

After reviewing all of the information collected, the MSHA team will prepare a detailed report that will be made available to the mining industry and the public.

In line with past practice, MSHA investigators will work cooperatively with and share information with investigators from the Pennsylvania Department of Deep Mine Safety, which also is investigating the accident.

But simply investigating this one accident is not enough. We're going all-out to keep this from happening elsewhere.

Accordingly, we are starting a national project to identify old mines. We are starting reviews of mine maps, technological innovations, and regulations and practices designed to prevent these incidents.

Among other actions, MSHA will:

Establish a task force to review the availability, accuracy and quality of old mine maps;
Hold a technical symposium with representatives from academia, mine operators, and
manufacturers on methods to accurately identify the extent and perimeter of closed mining operations; and
Review existing Federal mine safety standards and practices designed to prevent mine inundations.

We will ask for the assistance of the whole mining community to contribute ideas, technical expertise and information.

Our accident investigation will determine the root cause of the Quecreek accident and, along with the other steps we are taking, will give us the information we need to prevent a recurrence.

The Quecreek rescue was a tremendous partnership effort by the miners themselves, Black Wolf Coal Company personnel, Federal, State and local officials, and many others. We need the same kind of partnership to prevent similar accidents in the future.

Thank you.

I would be glad to answer any questions you may have.