MSHA reports:

“At approximately 8:39 pm (EDT) Thursday night, a significant bounce occurred at the mine.  Three rescue workers are confirmed dead, including one MSHA inspector.  Six others remain hospitalized.  At this time, all rescue efforts have been suspended.”

The MSHA inspector who was fatally injured in this latest coal-pillar rockburst was Mr. Gary Jensen, who worked out the MSHA’s Price, Utah office.  Gary was a member of MSHA’s mine rescue team.  Before joining MSHA, he worked as a coal miner for SUFCO Coal and had also been part of that company’s mine rescue team.

Another MSHA inspector from the Price, Utah field office, Mr. Frank Markosek, was also underground when the violent rockburst occurred.  He was seriously injured.  Both of these men, like nearly every MSHA employee, are committed to protecting the health and safety of  miners.  They were underground at the Crandall Canyon mine specifically to ensure that the Murray Energy coal miners digging through the collapse and setting roof and rib supports were working as safely as possible.  Like coal miners across the world, they were part of a brotherhood, living by an unspoken promise to one another: “I’ve got your back.”

Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao issued the following statement:

“Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to the families, friends and colleagues of the rescuers who were killed and those who were injured last night during the heroic efforts to save the lives of the trapped miners.  These brave men–one of them a Mine Safety and Health Administration professional–made the ultimate sacrifice so that others may live.  We join the families and the community in mourning the loss of these courageous rescuers and we continue to pray for those miners still missing.”

Comments

  1. #1 lisa rosetta
    August 17, 2007

    How were you able to confirm the identity of the MSHA men involved?

  2. #2 leftistmoon
    August 17, 2007

    Really!

    I just read over at Kathy Snyder’s place that the name of the of MSHA employee was being withheld “The identity of an MSHA employee killed in the cave-on has not been released.”

  3. #3 Tammy
    August 17, 2007

    this really has been a terrible ordeal. I really feel for all the families involved. I just hope they have continued support.

  4. #4 Frank Mirer
    August 19, 2007

    Mining is a different world of work from that on top of the ground. Some questions.

    1. Who is the employer and who is the supervisor of the rescue workers?

    2. Is there a difference in that relationship if the resucue involves digging a tunnel over the course of days, as in this case?

    3. Is there a regulation preventing or limiting mining in a geologically questionable area?

    4. Does MSHA have supervisory authority over a rescue or other emergency situation in a mine?

  5. #5 Celeste Monforton
    August 19, 2007

    Thanks for the feedback and questions on my post entitled “Latest Victims of Crandall Canyon: MSHA Inspectors.” I am a former MSHA employee and learned the names of the MSHA employees from some of my former colleagues to whom I still correspond.

    In response to Frank Mirer’s excellent questions:

    1. Who is the employer and who is the supervisor of the rescue workers?
    The individuals who are working the rescue maintain their pre-rescue employer-employee relationship. The majority of the people who were working underground to “tunnel through” the trapped miners are employees of Murray Energy, the MSHA inspectors who were underground, are still employees of the Dept of Labor, the contractors who are running the drilling rigs on the sides/top of the mountain are employees of the contractor.

    In other types of mine-rescue operations, you’ll have members of mine rescue teams who are underground. In their regular jobs, most of these miners are employees of mining companies (CONSOL, Peabody, etc.) and prepare as mine rescuers for the benefit of their company and their companies miners, but they are also volunteers when they travel to emergency situations to assist with a mine rescue. At th Sago mine for example, there were about a dozen mine rescue teams (6 person) at the scene, and they were all volunteers from other mining companies.

    2. Is there a difference in that relationship if the resucue involves digging a tunnel over the course of days, as in this case?
    No, there is no difference. But, when a situation is particularly dangerous, such as at the Sago mine, when the mine gas levels were very unstable, the mine rescue teams (such as CONSOL’s team) received permission from the company before they went underground. (Because the team is made up of CONSOL employees.) In the 2006 MINER Act, the Mine Act was amended to place limits on liability to the mine rescue team’s employer should damage to property, injury or death occur as part of the rescue. (See Section 116) http://www.msha.gov/MinerAct/2006mineract.pdf

    3. Is there a regulation preventing or limiting mining in a geologically questionable area?

    The Mine Act requires that all mine operators submit a detailed mining plan to MSHA. Every underground mine (and surface for that matter) has unique features based on geology and previous (typically) mining activity in the very mine, or in areas adjacent to the mine. All of these factors are supposed to be considered in the mining plan. The rockbursts that have been occuring at the Crandall Canyon mine are not unusual for that region, and this mine apparently had a history of them. (Although as I wrote in my August 14 post (History of Rockbursts at Crandall Canyon?) the mine operator did not submit a required accident report on this event, and apparently, MSHA didn’t require it when they learned of the rockburst.)

    Under the Mine Act, MSHA could reject a mining plan if the conditions are too dangerous; typically what happens is that the operator will re-submit and re-submit the plan until it is approved. Mining is basically an engineering issue—if you can figure out how to engineer to make the operation safe, and stick to the engineering plan—the mining can be done. The decision-factor is often economic—if the engineering challenges are so great, and so many precautions and hardware have to be installed, the project becomes to costly to pursue—-unless the price of coal is high.

    4. Does MSHA have supervisory authority over a rescue or other emergency situation in a mine?

    Under the Mine Act, Section 103(k) (which is nearly always the order under which a mine rescue operation takes place), MSHA must “insure the safety of any person in the” mine while the rescue/recovery operation takes place. The operator will develop a plan for the rescue, and MSHA must approve the plan, and every modification to the plan. These modifications may happen as frequently as every hour; “we’re going to put this piece of equipment underground and do thus and such.” MSHA signs off on that. Next “were going to take these air samples and then if they are below xyz value, we are going to advance 50 feet.” MSHA signs off on that. And it goes on and on like that.

    There is a lesser known/used provision of the Mine Act, Section 103(j) which says that MSHA can “take whatever action deemed appropriate to protect the life of any person, and he may, if he deems it appropriate, supervise and direct the rescue and recovery activities in such mine.” Traditionally, this provision is not used during a rescue, because those running the rescue typically believe that the best way to manage the rescue is a bi-partite (MSHA and mine operator) or tri-partite (MSHA, State and mine operator) system, where there is good cooperation. During my work with the Sago investigation, we had some emotional discussions with the families about the 103(k) and 103(j) procedures.

  6. #6 leftistmoon
    August 19, 2007

    Thanks for the feedback and questions on my post entitled “Latest Victims of Crandall Canyon: MSHA Inspectors.” I am a former MSHA employee and learned the names of the MSHA employees from some of my former colleagues to whom I still correspond.

    I did notice later in the evening the SLC Tribune had the name of the deceased MSHA employee; I don’t remember if the other employee was listed as well. As a health care professional naming names is something I’m just not fond of doing – regardless. I have a real thing for privacy in that regard. (Even Anderson Cooper on CNN that night didn’t want to give out names and consequently held off.)

  7. #7 cmonforton
    August 20, 2007

    I respect your position that you’re naming names is not something that you’re fond of. But, I see it this way: most of the time, workplace fatalities never make it on anybody’s radar screen. If fatal injuries are reported at all in newspapers, they get a two-sentence blurb (“a worker was electrocuted yesterday working at the XYZ construction site; state officials are investigating”) and the victims remain nameless. I believe it’s time that we connect names and faces to these victims, so they are not just workplace death #600, not just faceless statistics. They are individuals who died in (nearly all cases) preventable accidents. They leave behind loved ones and coworkers. It is through blogs which “name the names” of workplace fatality victims that we’ve been able to connect with these family members and offer support and connect them with other families who’ve been through a similar situation. Because we have listed the names of deceased workers on our blog, see “Deadly Summer for 13 Miners” about mine workers killed on the job in June and July 2007
    http://thepumphandle.wordpress.com/2007/08/01/deadly-summer-for-13-miners/
    and at USMWF’s Weekly Toll (http://weeklytoll.blogspot.com ) we’ve had family members reach out to us and thank us for letting more people know about their loved one’s work-related death.

    For those who would like to send a letter of condolence to the family of Mr. Gary Jensen, the MSHA inspector who died at Crandall Canyon on Thursday, August 16, cards may be sent to:

    Family of Gary Jensen
    c/o Mine Safety & Health Administration
    215 East Main
    Price, UT 84501-3035

  8. #8 leftistmoon
    August 20, 2007

    Whoa….whoa – please, don’t misunderstand me. It was the context only which was immediately after the accident. No names had yet been disclosed I’m sure pending notification of next-of-kin. That’s the context to which I was referring.

    I believe it’s time that we connect names and faces to these victims, so they are not just workplace death #600, not just faceless statistics. They are individuals who died in (nearly all cases) preventable accidents. They leave behind loved ones and coworkers.

    And neither do I. I have absolutely NO problem reporting ANYONE’S death that is caused by ANYTHING in the workplace.

  9. #9 Celeste Monforton
    August 20, 2007

    Always good to know there are other like-minded people out there. :)

  10. #10 Philip Simmons
    August 22, 2007

    I understand from what I have read here that a mine will submit and resubmit
    it’s mining plans until they get approved. Is there any scenario where MHSA
    can declare a retreat mining operation ‘safe’? If you systematically remove the supports holding anything up, who can know at what point it will come down.?
    I understand Murray energy hopes to reopen the mine to extract more coal in the future, With 17 ‘bumps in two weeks, is MHSA ever going yo br able to say
    ‘OK, the mountain has settled now, it is safe to go in’?
    With coal being such an important part of this nation’s energy supply, safety standards have to be reviewed. I am uncomfortable that the rescue effort falls into the hands of the owners whose dubious decision making clearly brought about the original accident, These people have the right to refuse help from the mineworkers union. It would appear that Murray energy not only employs it’s workers….it owns them too.

  11. #11 Celeste Monforton
    August 22, 2007

    One of the things I’ve learned over these last few couple of weeks, and heard again from the VP of Safety for the National Mining Association (see National Public Radio’s “To the Point” with Warren Olney, 8/17) is that “retreat mining” is not an exception in US underground mines, but the rule. The plan to remove some of the coal pillars as part of the mining plan, he suggested, is pretty much standard practice. So, it seems that there are lots of “scenarios in which MSHA can declare that a retreat mining operation is ‘safe'” (as you asked.)

    Can you elaborate on your statement “these people have the right to refuse help form the mineworkers union” ?

    Thanks, Celeste

  12. #12 glea adams
    August 22, 2007

    no head shots. just both shoulders & both knees. then hope he lives a long time

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