Rescue Effort Underway in Another Mining Disaster

Rescue Effort Underway in Another Mining Disaster

The miners had just entered the coal mine for an evening shift when a carbon monoxide monitor below set off a warning alarm. A conveyor belt had caught fire in the Alma No. 1 Mine of the Aracoma coal mine, located about 60 miles from Charleston, West Virginia. According to the director of the Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training, Massey Energy told their employees to evacuate the mine ten minutes after the warning alarm rang.

A group of 12 miners encountered smoke as they came to the surface and were forced to put on breathing gear. Only ten of these miners made it to the surface: the other two are still missing. Another nine miners in a separate part of the coal mine were safety evacuated. As of Friday morning, five rescue teams were searching for the two missing miners.

Overnight shift worker Haskell Sheppard, who works on the main conveyor belt that caught fire in this mining accident, reports that the conveyor belt has had problems in the past, but nothing as bad as this. While investigators have not yet determined the exact cause of the accident, it may be possible this was not the first major problem with this conveyor system.

According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the Alma mine received 95 citations from inspectors in 2005 alone. On December 20, 2005—just one month ago—the mine received SEVEN violations from MSHA. Among these violations were substandard control of coal dust and other combustible materials and problems with the mine's ventilation plan.

Last year alone, the mine was issued over $28,000 in violation penalties. The mine has paid less than half what it has been fined to date. Last year, seven people were injured in an Alma coal mine accident. Surprisingly, this mine actually has a better-than-average safety record.

This mining scare is close to home for miners and families in West Virginia. The Sago Mine disaster—in which only one of thirteen miners survived—took place just three weeks ago.

Governor Joe Manchin notes, “Sago is very fresh in everybody's mind, but this is a different scenario.”

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