6 Miners Trapped in Collapsed Utah Mine

August 7, 2007

A coal mine collapsed Monday in central Utah, trapping six miners less than 20 miles from the epicenter of a 4.0 magnitude earthquake, authorities said.

The Genwal mine reported a “cave-in” at 3:50 a.m. MDT, an hour after the earthquake, the Emery County sheriff’s office said.

“Rescue workers are on scene trying to locate six miners that are unaccounted for,” the sheriff’s office.

Rocky Mountain Power, a utility with a power plant in the area, sent a rescue team and heavy equipment, spokesman Dave Eskelsen said.

The University of Utah’s Seismograph Stations said there was a clear link between the quake and the mine collapse, based on wave lengths.

“The ground is collapsing or relaxing toward the source,” director Walter Arabasz said.

“The evidence we have at hand suggests that the seismic event was caused by some disturbance in the mine,” he said. “We have to go back and look at more careful analysis to see if we can discriminate without ambivalence what the source is.”

A command center was being set up in Huntington, about 15 miles from the mine, said Teresa Behunin, an accountant with Utah American Energy, the mine owner. She had no other details.

The mine is in the Manti-La Sal National Forest, 140 miles south of Salt Lake City, in a sparsely populated area.

In the same county, 27 people died in a fire in the Wilburg mine in December 1984.

“We aren’t panicked yet,” Linda Jewkes, president of the Emery County Chamber of Commerce, said after hearing the news. “We’re very, very concerned and very cautious when it comes to the mines.”

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