Skip to content
Dave D. Lauriski
Quecreek Press Conference
Somerset, Pennsylvania
October 14, 2004

Good afternoon, everyone!. And thank you, Bill, for that kind introduction.

Well, the temperature is a little cooler, and the leaves on the trees are not as green, but otherwise, this is a very familiar place.

The last time I was up here, was about 15 months ago, for the one-year anniversary of one of the greatest rescue operations in the history of mining.

I know I don't have to recreate the drama for you - all you need to do is look around and see what an incredible job Bill and Lori Arnold, and the Quecreek Mine Rescue Foundation, have done to reconstruct those 77 hours in July of 2002, and the incredible outcome that truly affected an entire nation.

Nine lives were saved as a result of incredible determination and expertise on the part of dozens of men and women - some of whom are here today.

Nine other lives were saved as a result of heroic decisions they made.

It was truly a team effort, by not only members of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, but Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection, Enlow Fork's Mine Rescue Team from West Finley, local law enforcement, the mine operator, and many, many other individuals who held things together behind the scenes for nearly four days.

Through an intense investigation that lasted nearly a year, we learned many valuable lessons, especially about mine floods and the accuracy of mine maps.

Thanks to a faulty map, we learned that the Quecreek miners inadvertently broke through an abandoned adjacent mine, unleashing millions of gallons of water which forced them to literally swim for their lives.

We were able to counter a near-tragedy with a number of positive initiatives.

Throughout the United States, too many old abandoned mines are not adequately mapped. At Senator Arlen Specter's request, Congress appropriated $10 million toward the digitization of mine maps and for other technological projects.

The funding will allow states to provide information to mine operators electronically about the location of abandoned underground mines.

I am pleased to announce today that we have officially awarded the State of Pennsylvania $1 million to begin tackling this very serious problem.

Part of the appropriations was set aside for engineering projects on void detection.

MSHA received 58 different proposals from eight universities, two state geological survey organizations, and 13 private companies.

The proposals contained over 2,000 pages of technical material that had to be reviewed.

We had eight teams of engineers, scientists and university professors to evaluate each proposal in a formal process.

I am pleased to announce that one of the recipients of these contracts is Pennsylvania State University. Penn State will receive $759,290 to conduct seismic investigations at mine sites.

What this means is, a team of engineers will create a noise, such as an explosive shot or a hammer against a piece of metal, in order to create noise signals. When these signals hit a void, or something different from a coal seam, they will bounce back and be recorded.

Penn State will be conducting these tests at three mines, including one anthracite and one bituminous mine in Pennsylvania. Penn State also will develop a user's manual to help the mining industry determine the correct technology for their specific geology.

At this time, I would like to ask Dr. Chris Bise and Maochen Ge to accept this check for $759,290 from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The second recipient from Pennsylvania is D'Appolonia Engineering, based in Monroeville.

D'Appolonia will conduct two separate demonstration projects on void detection.

The first is electrical resistivity.

This involves injecting a current into the earth and measuring the voltage, which provides a profile of the subsurface and helps to identify where voids and cavities are located. Testing will be conducted at the Lot's Branch coal mine in West Virginia.

The second project proposes to demonstrate Time Domain Electromagnetic measurements by inducing a magnetic field into the ground, turning off the sending unit, and reading the secondary magnetic currents that are produced from the subsurface conductors. Testing will also be conducted at Lot's Branch.

Please join me in congratulating D'Appolonia, and I would ask that Mr. Robert Snow please accept this check for $300,710 to conduct these projects.

It is our hope that, through the studies and research borne out of the contracts and grants awarded for mine map digitization and void detection, no miners will ever have to experience what the men at Quecreek endured.

Through the years, the mining industry has made so many rapid advances in technology and stronger health and safety standards; we've experienced changes no one could have imagined.

In fact we now have record low fatalities and injury rates. These grants and contracts will further our ability to protect miners and help us erach the mining industry's goal - to head toward zero fatalities and injuries.

The final presentation I would like to make today is truly a special one. And I think it takes us full circle.

The changes this site we are standing on has undergone from a family-run dairy farm to a tribute to mine rescue is quite remarkable.

The Quecreek Mine Rescue Foundation was established by Bill and Lori Arnold to ensure that we never forget the heroics and the lives that were transformed during those four days in July 2002.

And from all indications - most notably are the busloads of tourists who visit the site every day -America continues to be riveted by this event.

So it seems only fitting that the bright yellow steel capsule that has become such a recognizable symbol of the Quecreek rescue should make its home here in Somerset.

MSHA's rescue capsule, used countless times over the last 30 years in training exercises -- but never before during an actual mine emergency -- has been one of the biggest draws at mining, safety and community events around the country.

Everyone wants to touch it, crawl inside it, and be photographed next to what became the miners' steel ticket to freedom.

Bill and Lori, on behalf of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, I hereby transfer the rescue capsule to the Quecreek Mine Rescue Foundation.

Thank you for your passion and your spirit, and thank you all for being here today.