6 Trapped After Utah Coal Mine Collapse

The collapse may have triggered what appeared to be a 3.9 magnitude quake.

ByABC News
January 8, 2009, 1:09 AM

Aug. 6, 2007 — -- Rescue teams are racing to reach six miners who are trapped 1,500 feet underground after a coal mine collapse early Monday morning in central Utah.

The force of the collapse was so powerful that it triggered seismic activity near the site of the mine that initially appeared to be a magnitude 3.9 earthquake, according to researchers at the University of Utah who oversee seismography readings for the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Crandall Canyon Mine reported a "cave-in" at 5:50 a.m. EDT, according to the Emery County Sheriff's office.

"Mine rescue and rescue workers are on scene trying to locate the six miners that are unaccounted for," according to the sheriff's office statement.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration, which was notified of a "seismic or ground failure" that had been registered near the mine at 5:40 a.m. EDT, is coordinating the rescue with local mine officials, spokesman Dirk Fillpot told ABC News.

A search team had already come within 1,700 feet of the trapped miners, who are 4 miles from the mine's entrance where the six unidentified miners are believed to be trapped. Despite the progress, rescuers had not made contact with them earlier this morning

"There has been no communication," Fillpot said, adding that family liaisons are also on their way to the site to communicate with the families of the miners.

The mine is operated by Genwal Resources Inc. in Huntington, Utah, according to the federal government's data retrieval system. The mine controller is listed as Robert E. Murray, president and CEO of Murray Energy Corp. in Pepper Pike, Ohio.

At an afternoon press conference, Murray described himself as a director of Utah America Energy, which owns Genwal Resources and is a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp.

If the trapped miners survive the initial cave-in, they have enough water and oxygen to survive up to 48 hours, Murray said at the scene. But Murray emphasized that it's unclear whether the miners are dead or alive. Rescue teams are using four different methods, including horizontal drilling, to try to reach the trapped miners from different directions. Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman was also at the scene of the collapse to help console the families of the missing miners.

Genwal Resources, which has 300 employees, reported $45 million in sales last year, according to the business-tracking service Hoovers.

What originally was thought to be a magnitude 3.9 earthquake struck at 4:48 a.m. EDT, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake was recorded by a USGS seismograph at a University of Utah measurement station.