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Mine exec: 6 trapped miners can survive for days

PAUL FOYAssociated Press WriterGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

HUNTINGTON, Utah (AP) Six miners trapped underground in a central Utah mine have enough water and oxygen to last several days, a mine executive said Monday as rescuers drove trucks to within 1,700 feet of the men.Were going to get them. … There is nothing on my mind right now except getting those miners out, said Robert E. Murray, chairman of Murray Energy Corp. of Cleveland, who was at the scene.The Crandall Canyon mine, in Emery County about 140 miles south of Salt Lake City, was large enough to drive trucks. Murray said the miners were 1,500 feet below ground, and rescuers were 1,700 feet away from them.The hitch: Crews dont know how much rubble is in the way of a rescue, Murray said.He believes miners have plenty of air because oxygen naturally leaks into the mine. The mine also is stocked with drinking water.There has been no contact with the miners and their conditions were unknown, Murray said.Away from the rescue effort, the cause of the collapse set off finger-pointing by Murray and scientists at the University of Utah.The University of Utah Seismograph Stations recorded a 3.9 magnitude earthquake at 2:48 a.m. MDT. The director said the collapse at the mine was responsible, not a separate event.There is no evidence that the earthquake triggered the mine collapse, Walter Arabasz said.Murray, however, said the epicenter was a mile from the trapped minersThe whole problem has been caused by an earthquake, Murray angrily insisted.The mine is in a narrow canyon in the Manti-La Sal National Forest in a sparsely populated area, two miles off Utah Route 31. It is large enough to accommodate trucks and other vehicles to transport miners when theyre inside at work.Federal records show a pattern of problems.Government mine inspectors have issued 325 citations against that mine since January 2004, according to federal Mine Safety and Health Administration online records.Of those, 116 were what the government considered significant and substantial, meaning they are likely to cause injury.In 2007, inspectors have issued 32 citations against the mine, 14 of them considered significant.Last month, inspectors cited the mine for a significant violation of the escapeways rule. That rule requires that at least two separate and distinct travelable passageways shall be designated as escapeways and be maintained as safe.It was the third time in less than two years that the mine had been cited for the same escapeways problem, according to MSHA records. In 2005, MSHA ordered the mine owners to pay $963 for not having escapeways and the 2006 fine for the same problem was just $60.Overall, the federal government has ordered the mine owner to pay nearly $152,000 in penalties for its 325 violations with many citations having no fines calculated yet. Since January, the mine owner has paid $130,678 in fines, according to MSHA records.Gov. Jon Huntsman, meanwhile, broke away from a wildfire forum in Boise, Idaho, to return to Utah.Were going to expend every resource we have and make every effort to make sure lives are put first and foremost, he said as he departed Boise.Emery County is Utahs No. 2 coal-producing county. In that same county, 27 people died in a fire in the Wilburg mine in December 1984.We arent panicked yet, Linda Jewkes, president of the Emery County Chamber of Commerce, said after hearing the news. Were very, very concerned and very cautious when it comes to the mines.Utah ranked 12th in coal production in 2006. There were 13 underground coal mines in 2005, the most recent statistics available, according to the Utah Geological Survey.Associated Press science writer Seth Borenstein in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.


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