Efforts proceed to extinguish fire at Blacksville No. 2 Mine

March 13, 2013
Workers were at the Orndoff shaft on King Sister Hill Road in Wayne Township Wednesday to help extinguish a fire in Consol’s Blacksville No. 2 Mine. - Bob Niedbala / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

WAYNESBURG – Consol Energy began pumping water early Wednesday through a borehole into its Blacksville No. 2 Mine in southern Greene County hoping to extinguish a fire that broke out Tuesday afternoon, forcing the mine’s evacuation.

The company, working with federal and state mining officials, has identified the general location of the fire and is implementing an “aggressive” plan to extinguish it, company spokeswoman Lynn Seay said in an email release.

The fire was discovered about 2 p.m. Tuesday when smoke was detected coming from the mine’s Orndoff air shaft on King Sister Hill Road in Wayne Township. All 121 workers underground were evacuated without injury through the mine’s Kuhntown portal, about a mile north on Oak Forest Road.

A mine rescue team entered the mine Tuesday afternoon but was forced to withdraw because of thick smoke and heat, Amy Louviere, spokeswoman for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, said Tuesday.

Consol said the company was able to open an existing borehole at the Orndoff shaft about midnight and by 8 a.m. Wednesday had pumped 125,000 gallons of water through it into the mine.

The company plans to deploy three drilling rigs to drill additional boreholes near the shaft to increase the volume of water it can pump into the mine, it said.

One of the drilling rigs was on-site and began drilling at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday; a second was to arrive by 5 p.m. that day, and the third was being transported to the site from the company’s Bailey Mine.

Consol said it also has lowered three sample lines into the Orndoff shaft to measure levels of methane and carbon monoxide, which will help it determine whether the fire is abating.

The company plans to drill four additional boreholes into the mine, each between 1,000 and 2,000 feet in depth, Louviere said Wednesday. When the first borehole is drilled, the company plans to lower a camera into the mine to determine the extent of the fire, she said.

Consol said its team will remain on-site around the clock. The company has also secured all of the necessary machinery to support the effort, it said.

Mine safety agencies with personnel and equipment on site included MSHA and the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training. The United Mine Workers union, which represents mine employees, also has several safety experts involved in the efforts.

Consol has cancelled all shifts while work to extinguish the fire continues. No personnel will re-enter the mine until it is determined it is safe to do so, the company said.

The mine’s major surface operations are in Wana, W.Va., just south of the Pennsylvania border, and the mine is considered a West Virginia mine though it mines coal and has a portal and other facilities in Greene County.

The mine employs about 500 miners and produced about 3.2 million tons of coal last year.

Bob Niedbala worked as a general assignment reporter for the newspaper for 27 years in the Greene County bureau. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

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