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DOL News Release No. 01-481
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: (703) 235-1452

Released Monday, December 17, 2001

News Release

Investigation Into Alabama Mine Explosion Enters Next Phase
Miners Back At Work

BROOKWOOD, Ala. - U.S. Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) investigators have nearly completed the site examination phase of last September's explosion at the Alabama mine where 13 people were killed in an underground mine explosion. MSHA investigators are now gearing up for the next phase of their probe.

"MSHA's accident investigation team has amassed an enormous amount of documentation and records relating to the mine's safety system and general operating procedures. They've conducted 70 interviews with miners and have collected hundreds of rock and coal dust samples," said Dave Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "The next critical step is for the team to consolidate and analyze all of that data by recreating the events that led up to the September accident."

The rock and coal dust samples will help investigators determine the extent of burning that took place underground. Electrical devices, cables and various other items will undergo extensive physical and laboratory testing to determine potential ignition sources. This testing will take place at MSHA's Safety and Health Technology Center in Bruceton, Pa.

Investigators have completed an extensive evaluation of the mine's roof. They are expected to reexamine the area where the roof fall occurred, once rock material is removed from the batteries and battery charger.

The miners idled by the explosion have been brought back to work to begin rehabilitation of the mine in areas that are no longer under investigation.

MSHA will release a complete report of its findings once the investigation of the accident is completed.