UPDATE: Fire extinguished at Consol Blacksville No. 2 mine - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

UPDATE: Fire extinguished at Consol Blacksville No. 2 mine

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UPDATE

Consol announced March 21 that it believes the fire that has burned since March 12 at its Blacksville No. 2 mine at the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border has been extinguished.

"The team has pumped a sufficient amount of water into the mine to complete the water seals, achieving the expected results," wrote spokesperson Lynn Seay in an e-mail update. "Analysis of the continuous mine atmosphere readings that the team has been taking indicates that gas levels remain steady and oxygen levels continue to decrease. As result, Consol Energy believes the fire has been successfully extinguished."

The company will continue to monitor the atmosphere in the mine through the weekend to be certain the fire is out, Seay said, and has presented a re-entry plan to state and federal authorities for their review.

The mine has been idle since the fire was discovered nine days ago. The company is notifying employees that they are eligible to apply for unemployment benefits and their current benefit plans remains in effect.

 

MARCH 20 STORY

Work continued March 20 to extinguish a week-old fire at Consol Energy's Blacksville No. 2 mine at the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border.

"The level of (carbon monoxide) is decreasing," wrote Mine Safety and Health Administration spokesperson Amy Louviere in a March 19 e-mail update. "As of this morning, 11.4 million gallons of water have been induced and 6.2 million cubic feet of nitrogen have been injected into the mine. Material to install remote seals is expected to be delivered to the mine tonight or tomorrow morning."

MSHA confirmed March 20 that it still had not learned that the fire had been extinguished.

The fire was discovered on Tuesday, March 12, when smoke was detected coming from a ventilation shaft on the West Virginia side of the site.

The affected area was not a working section of the mine, according to Consol spokesperson Lynn Seay. All 121 day-shift underground employees working nearby were safely evacuated through the Kuhntown, Pa., portal. None sustained injuries.

The company worked with federal and state authorities to develop a plan to pump water and nitrogen into the mine to smother the fire, to monitor the atmosphere for increasing or decreasing signs of combustion, and to seal the affected area.

By the following Monday, March 18, 15 boreholes had been drilled. Of those, at least two are used for injecting water and one for nitrogen, one is used to monitor the atmosphere and one to monitor the water level, and eight will be used to install "remote isolation plugs" to seal the section off.

Seay said on March 20 that she did not know the work status of the idled miners — whether they would be able to collect unemployment or to pick up work at another Consol mine during the shutdown. It was not yet clear when mine operations would resume.

Blacksville No. 2 employs about 650 miners and is represented by the United Mine Workers of America.