Search continues at CONSOL slurry impoundment

November 30, 2012 by Ken Ward Jr.

See comments section below for updates as they become available.

UPDATED, 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012 —

Here’s the latest statement issued a few minutes ago by CONSOL Energy:

Working closely with federal and state mining officials as well as divers on-site and other local rescue squads at its Robinson Run Preparation Plant slurry impoundment in Harrison County, WV, CONSOL Energy located the submerged bulldozer shortly after 7:00 pm Saturday.  The dive crew is currently trying to determine the depth of the dozer.  Once that determination is made, the recovery operations will stop for the night to allow for development of a recovery plan and will resume in the morning.

CONSOL Energy and MSHA are providing regular updates to the family and our thoughts and prayers go out to them during this difficult time.

The Robinson Run mine remains idle and we will evaluate resumption of operations on a shift-by-shift basis.

In a follow-up response to The Associated Press, CONSOL spokeswoman Lynn Seay said this regarding the unaccounted for miner:

We cannot yet determine if our employee is in the cab of the bulldozer and will not know that until we proceed with the recovery plan.

That’s an aerial photo taken yesterday by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, which routinely uses its helicopter for inspections of sites like this CONSOL Energy slurry impoundment in Harrison County, where today two miners were injured and one remains unaccounted for following the collapse of a coal refuse embankment.

That’s right, as if this morning’s news out of Greenbrier County, where a miner died in an Alpha Natural Resources underground mine, wasn’t bad enough, tonight we’re reporting on the Gazette’s website:

… Shortly after noon, part of a coal-waste embankment gave way at Consol Energy’s Robinson Run operation in Harrison County, sending a bulldozer and two pickup trucks sliding into a slurry pond.

Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, called the Robinson Run incident a “massive failure” at the impoundment. She said the incident occurred at about 12:15 p.m.

“One dozer operator and two engineers were on top of the platform when the failure occurred,” Louviere said.

Lynn Seay, media relations director for Consol, said one employee was transported by ambulance to a local hospital and was “alert and in stable condition.” A second employee was flown by medical helicopter to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, where his condition was unknown. A third employee remains unaccounted for, Consol said.

Here’s the statement on all of this issued tonight by our governor, Earl Ray Tomblin:

Today, four families were shaken by the unexpected but always present danger associated with mining. While we strive to ensure the safety of our coal miners, accidents do occur. Joanne and I pray for the miners and their families. We ask all West Virginias to do the same.


6 Responses to “Search continues at CONSOL slurry impoundment”

  1. Stephanie Danz says:

    Yet again, we hear: Accidents occur. They are caused due to the collusion that exists between government and the coal companies. How many people will be written off as just accidents? The miners, their families, and more are at risk on a daily basis.

  2. Mike G says:

    It does seem to be the case that those who run those companies know that they do things that are less than totally safe, often getting away with that thanks to lax oversight at both the state and federal levels with the result being—“accidents will happen” from time to time. They figure those periodic accidents into account and accept that they will have damage that will have to be repaired–at least to their facilities if not the surrounding areas off their property—they usually can pawn off that clean up to the state or feds and they accept that there is going to be a loss of life—-with those people who die or are seriously harmed—well-that is simply the “cost of doing business” and those who are hurt or worse are “acceptable collateral damage.”

  3. Mike G says:

    Another good point is being made here when people say things like such accidents where people die and the environment gets destroyed—-that its “God’s Will”—no its not God’s will when the dust, gases, etc build up inside a coal shaft and blow up immediately killing the miners or irretrievably trapping them—that is not “God’s will” that was a lack of the will of man to do things right and have all the safety protocols in place and make them a priority and make sure that all the equipment is in good working order and all safety rules are being followed by the miners at all times.

    An act of “God’s Will” is when the earth shakes violently or a bad storm comes–but then again—that may not really be specifically “God’s Will in action—simply that God set up the way things work and He lets them go—like that we have things like weather and volcanic activity on this planet that are just part of the natural processes at work.

  4. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Update issued by U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012 —

    The divers have not entered the water today. Recovery personnel are using metal rods (conduit) to better locate the bulldozer. It appears that the bulldozer may not be as deep as originally thought, and crews are trying to outline and confirm that it is about 25- to 35 feet below the surface. Plans are under way to use sheet pilings and surround and isolate the dozer. Once that is completed, the hope is that divers will be able to enter the area to locate the missing dozer operator.

  5. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Update issued by MSHA shortly before 4 p.m., Monday, Dec. 3, 2012 —

    MSHA’s mobile command vehicle has arrived at the site. The command center will serve as a central location for meetings, plan review and video conferencing.
    The company is continuing to evaluate the best method to reach the bull dozer safely and determine its orientation (upright, on its side or upside down). Dredging began at approximately 1:30 p.m. this afternoon to permit access of barges. Four barges currently are on site.

  6. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Update issued shortly before 5 p.m., Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, by COSOL —

    On Sunday, CONSOL Energy committed to a recovery plan. In the interim, we continue work with MSHA and other state and federal agencies to implement the plan, which we believe will enable us to safely access the submerged bulldozer. CONSOL Energy anticipates that we will be in a position to provide further details of the plan on Wednesday and update you on progress to date.

    The Robinson Run mine was idle during the weekend and resumed partial operations at midnight last night. Pending approval from MSHA, we anticipate that all 605 employees will continue to work and full operations will resume Tuesday, in compliance with the state and federal agencies that govern our West Virginia coal operations. The decision to shift towards full operations at our Robinson Run mine will not interfere with the impending recovery efforts.

    Investigation into the cause of the accident will commence on Tuesday morning.

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