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Talking Points
Dave D. Lauriski
Media Briefing
Quecreek Mine Investigation Update
New Stanton, Pennsylvania
September 10, 2002

Good morning.

I appreciate this chance to update you on the investigation into the Quecreek mine inundation that recently trapped 9 miners for 77 hours in the Quecreek Mine in Somerset County.

I have to add, it's great to be back in Pennsylvania. After the experience of the Quecreek rescue, I know I'll always feel a special bond with the mines, the MSHA employees and the whole wonderful community in this area.

MSHA is focused now on preventing a similar accident from happening again. The investigation is proceeding well. MSHA's investigators are continuing to work closely and share information with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Deep Mine Safety.

As you know, most of the water has now been pumped from the Quecreek mine. The Federal and state investigators have been able to examine the area where the nine miners were trapped. They have examined a breach between the Quecreek Mine and what we believe to be the abandoned Saxman Mine. We have some photographs here to show you the breakthrough, which is about 4 feet high and 6 feet wide.

Investigators also have completed mapping the mine for pertinent information, damage and high water levels. There is one section of the mine where water continues to block access, and the pumping of water continues so that the investigators can access all areas of the mine.

The investigators have interviewed the majority of Quecreek personnel as well as the engineers who developed the mine maps.

In addition, MSHA investigators have found what appears to be an additional old map of the Saxman Mine. The map was found at the Windber Coal Heritage Center museum in Windber, Pa. It seems to be just a portion of the map, and is not the same as the map that was in the possession of the Quecreek mine operator. The investigators are evaluating this map. We're not sure how accurate this map is and we're not sure of its scale, and we are not ready to draw conclusions from it.

The investigators are comparing the recently discovered map with the actual underground workings. They also are seeking further information on the Saxman Mine (also known as Harrison No. 2).

I want to emphasize again that the investigators will carefully review all the information collected before drawing conclusions.

MSHA maintains its control order on the mine and will do so until the investigators have completed their on-site work, and as long as necessary for safety.

Meanwhile, MSHA also has conducted a risk assessment of mines throughout the country to determine potential for similar breakthroughs. The agency's district offices are working with individual mine operators to ensure that necessary steps are taken to protect against these incidents.

We are developing an agenda for a major technical symposium on the prevention of inundations. We plan to announce the agenda and date for the conference soon.

Thank you for the opportunity to update you, and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.


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