Inspectors Say No Problems Found in West Virginia Mine After 1 Day

June 9, 2010

Teams found no problems Monday during a daylong expedition inside the West Virginia coal mine where 29 men died in the industry’s worst disaster in 40 years, officials said.

Teams entered Massey Energy Co.’s Upper Big Branch mine shortly after 8 a.m. and emerged by 4:30 p.m., the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said.

They found neither elevated levels of carbon monoxide nor explosive methane gas, MSHA said. The teams also checked five sets of seals used to close-off mined out areas and found no problems with them either.

Exploratory teams of government and company employees are expected to spend up to two weeks working their way through the sprawling underground complex to make sure it’s safe enough for investigators to start searching for clues to the cause of the April 5 explosion. The blast is the target of civil and criminal investigations.

Monday’s foray was just the third trip inside the mine since the last of the bodies were recovered in April. Teams have been kept out by high levels of toxic carbon monoxide and explosive levels of methane.

Two crews went underground last week. They were forced to retreat early after handheld meters registered elevated gas levels, but later returned and installed a telephone link between the entrances.

Massey had hoped teams would return Friday, but that was delayed while a ventilation shaft was drilled from the surface approximately 1,100 feet into the mine. Work on the shaft was finished over the weekend, Massey spokesman Jeff Gillenwater said.

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