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U.S. starting nationwide review of mine maps

Friday, August 02, 2002

By Mike Bucsko, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The accident that trapped nine miners for three days in the Quecreek Mine in Somerset County has prompted a nationwide review of mine maps and mine regulations to prevent similar accidents.

As part of the review, the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration will form a task force to examine the accuracy of mine maps and convene a seminar of government, industry and academic representatives to determine how to accurately detail the boundaries of closed mines, said Dave Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

"We're going all out to keep this from happening elsewhere," Lauriski said yesterday during a news conference at the MSHA's District 2 office in New Stanton.

Federal mining officials have also begun their investigation of the Quecreek Mine accident, which Lauriski said should be completed within three to six months.

Edwin "Pat" Brady, district manager in the District 4 office in Mount Hope, W.Va., will direct the accident investigation. Brady will lead a nine-member team of MSHA workers from the agency's Arlington, Va., headquarters, regional offices and the Pittsburgh Safety and Health Technology Center in South Park Township.

Nine men spent more than three days in the Quecreek Mine before they were rescued early Sunday morning. They were trapped when millions of gallons of water from the closed Saxman Mine flooded their tunnels.

Inaccurate maps of the water-filled Saxman Mine could have contributed to the flooding of the Quecreek Mine.

Mining companies are required by federal law to maintain accurate maps and failure to do so is a violation that could result in civil penalties, Lauriski said.

The mine accident investigation will result in a report that could include recommendations for further action, such as the imposition of civil fines for regulatory violations or a referral to the U.S. Justice Department for criminal prosecution, Lauriski said. There is no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing, he added.

"One thing I don't want to do is draw premature conclusions," he said.

The results of the Quecreek investigation will be used by MSHA officials as a basis for recommendations in the national review of mining maps and regulations, he said.

In addition to MSHA, the Pennsylvania Department of Deep Mine Safety is conducting a separate investigation, but the federal and state agencies will share information before their final reports are completed.

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