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Search continues at CONSOL slurry impoundment

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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.