UPDATE: Trapped Consol employee located in bulldozer Monday a.m. - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

UPDATE: Trapped Consol employee located in bulldozer Monday a.m.

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Updated 10:45 a.m. Monday Dec. 10; earlier Friday story and Monday morning update below:

The trapped Consol Energy employee has been located in the cab of the bulldozer at the bottom of the Robinson Run coal slurry impoundment, the company said in a 10:30 a.m. email update.

Weekend dives more clearly defined the exact position of the bulldozer, according to spokesperson Lynn Seay.

Teams repositioned the pipe and adjusted the water jets Sunday evening in preparation for a Monday morning dive.

"This morning an opening was cut in the canopy of the bulldozer and the divers confirmed that our employee is inside the bulldozer cab," Seay wrote.

It is a complex recovery effort that requires precision and time to execute safely and properly, Seay emphasized. "We do not have an estimate on how long it will take to recover our employee from the bulldozer."

Investigation into the cause is ongoing.

 

Updated 8:45 a.m. Monday Dec. 10; original Friday Dec. 7 story below:

With no detail about progress on the weekend pipe dive to recover the miner trapped since Nov. 30 in Consol Energy's Robinson Run coal slurry impoundment, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration provided a brief update Monday morning.

"Divers have been in the water and have seen the cab," wrote MSHA spokesperson Amy Louviere in an email early Monday. That refers to the cab of the bulldozer the miner was operating when the dam expansion he was working on collapsed.

"Efforts will continue today," Louviere wrote.

This is the first word since MSHA and Consol provided word mid-day Friday that the pipe dive would begin Saturday morning. Consol has not yet responded to a Monday morning request from The State Journal for an update.

 

Original story from Friday Dec. 7:

The first dive for the Consol Energy miner trapped in the Robinson Run coal slurry impoundment by the Nov. 30 dam collapse is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday Dec. 8.

The miner was operating a bulldozer to expand the dam when a 200-by-200-foot section gave way, dragging the miner and bulldozer deep into the slurry. Two engineers also dragged in were quickly rescued, treated and released.

This "pipe dive" is the faster of two recovery plans formulated by the company, mine experts and federal and state regulators in the days following the collapse at the Harrison County facility.

Consol received approval for the pipe dive from regulators Thursday evening, according to company spokesperson Lynn Seay.

Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration spokesperson Amy Louviere provided new details on the process the company first explained to the media in a Wednesday afternoon briefing.

A flotilla of eight barges has been established in the recovery location, according to Louviere.

"A 43-ton oscillating crane has been loaded onto and secured to the flotilla," she wrote in an email update. "It will be positioned with a 4-foot diameter pipe above the bulldozer."

What is believed to be the bulldozer is more than 20 feet below the surface of the slurry at an unknown orientation. According to the Wednesday briefing, the pipe consists of two 20-foot sections of 46-inch inner diameter pipe that have been welded together.

Pipe is fitted with water jets at one end. That end will be lowered first into the water over the bulldozer.

"The pipe will be used to pump fresh water down to push the sediment away from the dozer," Louviere wrote. "The first dive will be attempted after the water has replaced the slurry in the pipe to the point where there is visibility."

Consol previously had said the divers — an expert dive team from Louisiana — would dive in darkness, and that a bulldozer like the one that is submerged had been brought on site for them to study so they would know what they encounter during the dark dive.

The longer-term plan, to build a coffer dam around the bulldozer and pump slurry from it to make the bulldozer accessible to divers, was also being pursued on Wednesday and was not mentioned in the Friday mid-afternoon updates.

The company said on Wednesday that it is not known for certain whether the miner is inside the bulldozer. But Louviere wrote that a forensics dog brought onto the property Thursday night gave a positive reaction, indicating that the recovery team is working in the right location.

Also in the Wednesday briefing, Consol explained that it was curtaining off the inlet end of the slurry impoundment so that the coal preparation plant could be restarted and slurry once again piped into the impoundment without disturbing recovery operations at the other end. The company has received approval to restart the prep plan, Louviere said, but had not restarted it as of Thursday evening.