MSHA provides new details on trapped-miners incident

By |  June 8, 2016

msha-logoThe Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) provided further details Wednesday on the recovery efforts at Green Brothers Gravel Co. Inc.’s Harmony Mine and Mill in Crystal Springs, Miss., following a slide of sand and slurry Friday that trapped two miners.

According to MSHA, the agency was notified of the incident Friday, June 3, around 1 p.m. The trapped miners were operating an excavator and dump truck when the material engulfed them. MSHA immediately dispatched agency officials to the site, including emergency responders, and coordinated efforts at that time with the company and state and local authorities.

The Copiah County Sheriff’s Office was first on the scene and began efforts to retrieve the two miners from the material, MSHA reports. The sheriff’s office was, however, forced to halt rescue efforts Friday due to additional slides from the rain-soaked material. A crane was brought in to aid in the efforts to extract the fallen material.

On Saturday, June 4, recovery operations resumed at 6 a.m. Workers continued to construct a road to allow the crane to reach the recovery site and locate the missing miners.

On Sunday, June 5, recovery operations resumed at 9 a.m., according to MSHA. About 25 men worked at the site Sunday. Mine employees were used to build the road for crane access. A construction crew conducted the crane operations. Equipment utilized included a 230-ton crane, a Cat 336 excavator, an air compressor and haulage trucks.

Crews were unsuccessful in lifting the excavator Sunday, MSHA says. The crane was slated to attempt to lift the haulage unit and a Cat 730C articulated truck.

On Monday, June 6, the recovery team started evaluating another approach to remove the equipment, based on the inability of the crane to remove the excavator and the truck. The mine operator pumped water from the area while prepping for mud/slurry pumps and the arrival of pumps from Alabama. A long-reach excavator was en route Monday, as well. In addition, the operator contacted a recovery outfit that specializes in water recovery out of the Mississippi River area.

Pumps that can handle solids and heavy slurry were onsite Monday, as well, and the installation was in progress.

On Tuesday, June 7, pumps ran through the night with brief periods of routine stoppage to clear and reset the hydraulic pumping unit for better suction, MSHA says. The crews utilized water piped down to the area to wash the material from around the machines to the pump. The pump was slowly moved in and beyond the location of the machines to remove the spilled material from the two units.

A state rescue/recovery team was also contacted Tuesday and was scheduled to be onsite with team evaluators to draw up a plan for extraction from the cabs should the miners be visible and inside the units. Progress continued with the pumps, MSHA adds, but the operator was also looking at alternate plans using a long-reach excavator or the slurry dive team that conducted the Robinson Run Coal impoundment recovery in West Virginia.

Also on Tuesday, the roof of the haul truck was uncovered. The top of the cab was later removed but the victim was not found.

On Wednesday, June 8, the rescue/recovery team worked overnight to remove material around the excavator in an attempt to enter the cab. The team was still moving sand to locate the cab of the excavator, according to MSHA, although it has not been able to locate the excavator’s cab.

According to MSHA, it appears the boom of the unit is twisted and not in line with the cab. In the meantime, contractors are resuming efforts to apply water and pump material around the excavator in an attempt to remove additional sand and mud to assist in locating the cab. The effort may take several hours, MSHA reports.

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Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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