Inspectors from The Bureau of Land Management stated that there were “serious structural problems” found at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah three years before the roof of the mine collapsed and killed nine people in August 2007. But the Labor Department did not know about the problems with the mine until after the collapse and the agency approved mining at the site.
“This is like the CIA not getting information from the FBI when we’re getting attacked by terrorists,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., whose committee also is investigating the oversight by the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration of the mine and the accident response.
The mine collapsed on August 6, trapping 6 mine workers over 1,500 feet below ground. The six men were never reached due to numerous problems with rescue efforts ans are presumably dead. On August 16 three rescue workers were killed during a rescue attempt.
The inspector for the Bureau of Land Management wrote that the pillars of coal that were holding up the ceiling of the mine were insufficient and were failing. He stated that retreat mining, which is where pillars of coal are used to hold up the mine’s roof, and once the area is completely mined workers pull the pillar and take the useful coal, would be “untenable”.
Kevin Stricklin, a coal mine safety and health administrator for the Labor Department, said that knowing about the report would have been helpful in making a decision about allowing mining at the Crandall Canyon Mine, but the BLM report was only for internal use.
Lawmakers do not think that the Mine Safety and Health Administration did everything in their power to prevent the mine collapse. The mine collapses are thought to be from a “bump”, which is a spontaneous explosion from the mine roof because of pressure from the mountain on top of it. The Crandall Canyon Mine would have been especially prone to a bump because the miners were trying to mine the last of the coal and the weakened state of the pillars would put extra pressure on the mine roof.
If the BLM reports had been known about the tragedy at the Crandall Canyon Mine may have never occurred.
For more information on this subject, please refer to our section on Workplace Injuries and Discrimination.