Crandall Canyon Mine

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This article is part of the Coal Issues portal on SourceWatch, a project of Global Energy Monitor and the Center for Media and Democracy. See here for help on adding material to CoalSwarm.

Crandall Canyon Mine was an underground, bituminous coal mine in northwestern Emery County, Utah. The mine was owned by Murray Energy's UtahAmerican Energy, and was located about 15 miles (24 km) west north-west of Huntington, Utah.

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Coal mine disaster

On Monday, August 6, 2007, at 2:48 A.M., the mine collapsed, trapping 6 workers inside. The workers were approximately 3.4 miles (5.5 km) from the mine entrance and 1500 feet (457 m) underground. The collapse registered recorded seismic waves in magnitude 3.9 to 4.0, by seismograph stations of the University of Utah.[1]

The workers' bodies were never recovered. Another cave-in 10 days later killed two rescuers and a federal inspector during a frantic effort to tunnel their way to the trapped miners.[2]

Ownership

Genwal is the mining operator, and owned by parent company Andalex Resources Inc., which owned the mine assets with an outside partner. Andalex is a subsidiary of UtahAmerican Energy Inc., a company owned by Murray Energy Corp.[3]

Cause and regulatory violations

Murray Energy chief Bob Murray said that the cave-in was triggered by a natural earthquake. But a Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) report issued a year after the collapse found the mine was "destined to fail" because the mining company made critical miscalculations and didn't report early warning signs. MSHA itself was faulted by the Department of Labor (of which MSHA is an agency) for lax oversight before the collapse, and for mismanaging the failed rescue attempt.[4]

The largest mining fine in US history (until the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster) was levied against Murray Energy for the Crandall collapse: $1.8 million for 20 citations, including nine that were "contributory."[5]

In September 2012, Murray Energy reached a $949,351 settlement with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration over safety violations at the mine, although Murray maintains that the collapse was due to a natural quake. MSHA chief Joe Main disputed the earthquake theory and said Genwal admitted it thinned a coal barrier it should have left standing to hold up the mine. He said the company also failed to revise a roof control plan after ignoring early signs of trouble. Genwal accepted 17 safety violations, with four of them contributing to the cave-in. The settlement reduces the Labor Department's initial assessment of $1.6 million in fines for flagrant, reckless and highly negligent violations of mine safety law to $949,351 in penalties -- the third-largest fine ever levied against a coal company.[6]

Criminal charges

In March 2012, U.S. Attorney for Utah David Barlow’s announced that a settlement was reached in which Crandall Canyon’s co-owner and operator, Genwal Resources, Inc., pled guilty to two misdemeanors for willfully violating safety laws in the mine and would pay the maximum fine of $500,000.[7] The settlement drew harsh criticism from the United Mine Workers union, members of Congress and independent safety advocates. They said the settlement highlighted what mine safety reformers say is a major flaw in federal law: Criminal violations of safety and health standards are misdemeanors that carry less jail time. And, safety advocates said, the case emphasized the importance for prosecutors to look beyond mine safety laws to other criminal offenses such as conspiracy as they try to build a case to hold corporate officials responsible for mining deaths.[8]

Wrongful death claims

The families of the nine victims of the Crandall Canyon mine disaster settled wrongful death claims in 2009. The settlements include non-disclosure agreements that have kept terms secret.[9]

Mine Data

  • MSHA ID: 4201715
  • Operator: Genwal Resources Inc
  • Controller: UtahAmerican Energy, Murray Energy
  • Union:
  • County: Emery
  • State: UT
  • Latitude: 39.46
  • Longitude: -111.16
  • 2007 Production (short tons): 402,009
  • Coal Type:
  • Mining Method:
  • Mine Status:
  • Average No. of Employees: 54

Articles and resources

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