There is no checklist but rather a big-picture evaluation federal Mine Safety and Health Administration officials are pursuing in Utah following August's fatal catastrophe at the Crandall Canyon Mine near Huntington.

Kevin Stricklin, MSHA's administrator for coal mine safety and health, told the Deseret Morning News Monday the agency considers mines deeper than 1,500 feet to be more prone to the kind of "bumps" that fatally trapped six miners at Crandall Canyon Aug. 6 and later took the lives of three rescuers.

Crandall Canyon Mine remains closed following the August tragedy. Mine co-owner Bob Murray later closed the company's Tower Mine, situated north of Price, for a review of the safety of its long wall mining operation. MSHA subsequently pulled its approval of the mining plans for deep mines.

"We made a conscious decision that we needed to look at all of the other mines in the district that would be considered bump prone and had a cover of more than 1,500 feet," Stricklin said.

Tower Mine, in particular, will not be able to reopen until MSHA approves a new mining plan for its long-wall operation, Stricklin said, adding that he cannot speak to individual changes the federal agency will require but did add he would like to see more automation so miners spend less time in areas with the greatest underground hazards.

The review will also affect retreat mining, the technique being used at Crandall Canyon to harvest coal from pillars originally designed to hold the mountain above the mine in place. Stricklin said he did not expect MSHA's technical team to conclude companies could not use the retreat-mining technique.

Initial reports of the collapse at Crandall Canyon gave the appearance the collapse could have been caused by earthquake activity. Scientists later concluded pressure on the pillars within the mine caused portions of the pillars to burst.

Murray Energy this past week announced and then canceled layoffs among the staff maintaining Tower Mine until it reopens. When Tower will reopen is a nagging question among about 170 miners laid off when Tower was initially idled in August.

Stricklin said the work being done now does not have an expected completion deadline.


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