Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Rodney Brown
Phone: (703) 235-1452
Released Monday, July 24, 2000
MSHA Monitoring Today's Re-entry into CONSOL Energy's Loveridge Mine
IUnder a plan approved by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, mine examination teams this morning prepared to re-enter CONSOL Energy's Loveridge No. 22 Mine near Fairview, W.Va., the site of a 1999 fire that has kept the mine closed since last June. "All of us -- management, miners and their representatives, State and Federal mine safety officials -- are working together to assure that this process goes safely," Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health said today at a mine-site news conference. "Gas readings indicate that the fire inside the mine is extinguished. We are continuing to monitor conditions closely as re-entry begins." CONSOL Energy's plan called for several teams to re-enter the mine today to begin initial examination. MSHA emergency response vehicles are on-site, and MSHA inspectors were slated to accompany each group traveling underground today. Last week seals were removed from several surface openings in order to ventilate the mine. To bring the fire under control, the mine had been sealed since the day the fire broke out. Fire was discovered at the Loveridge Mine at approximately 1:15 a.m. on June 22, 1999. Miners safely evacuated the mine. MSHA issued a control order to assure the safety of persons at the mine site and dispatched mine emergency personnel along with its mine command vehicle, mobile infrared monitoring vehicle, and mobile air analysis laboratory to the mine. Under plans approved by MSHA, CONSOL Energy drilled boreholes into the mine to monitor gases underground. Additional boreholes have been used to inject inert gases and later, a mixture of flyash and concrete was injected to isolate the fire area from other areas of the mine. Gas monitoring to determine the fire's status has continued for the past 12 months. "The gas readings were the determining factor in our allowing the company to re- enter," McAteer said. A sealed fire is extinguished when certain ratios sustain low levels for extended periods. The calculated ratios at Loveridge are below these levels. Levels of oxygen, methane, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen are considered. MSHA has approved a plan for examination teams to examine the mine over the next several weeks. "MSHA will continue close monitoring of the situation at Loveridge as long as necessary to assure the safety of examiners and other workers," McAteer said. During the past two years, MSHA has responded to four underground coal mine fires that required extensive monitoring and lengthy recovery efforts. The Willow Creek Mine near Price, Utah, the Oxbow Mine near Somerset, Colo., and the West Elk Mine, also near Somerset, Colo., have since returned to production. No injuries occurred in any of these fires. "Mine emergency plans and preparations, as well as cooperative efforts towards mine recovery, have paid off in all these recent incidents," McAteer said.