Three miners trapped in mine in southeastern Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Three Kentucky coal miners trapped for
hours in an underground mine because of flooding remained in good
condition Monday and have moved to dry ground inside the complex
while waiting to be taken out, a state spokesman said.

The miners, whose names have not been released, became trapped
in the southeastern Kentucky mine when a portion of the entrance
collapsed about 6:40 a.m. EDT and water began pouring into the mine from a drainage ditch swollen with heavy overnight rains.

Dick Brown, spokesman for the Kentucky Energy and Environment
Cabinet, said early Monday evening would be the soonest the miners
could be brought out, noting water was still being pumped out of
the mine late in the day.

"We're just waiting for it to get low enough so they can wade
out," Brown told The Associated Press.

A state-trained mine rescue team is on the scene in Middlesboro
in Bell County along the Tennessee and Virginia borders.

Amy Louviere (LOO'-vee-air) says none of the miners were harmed
and they have moved to dry ground within the mine, owned by
Richmond, Va.-based James River Coal. She says they have been in
continuous contact with officials on the surface.

Brown said the miners would likely be taken to a hospital and
examined before being released to go home once they are out.

The mine is the Jellico No. 1 mine, operated by Bell County
Coal, officials said. Brown said water rushed into the mine from a
diversion ditch above the entrance. The ditch collapsed when a
piece of the mine's roof fell early Monday morning, Brown said.

Bell County Coal started operations there Jan. 23, 2009,
according to MSHA records.

The mine, one of four Bell County Coal has listed with MSHA, has
been cited 32 times during an ongoing inspection by MSHA that
started in April, according to MSHA records. The company has been
cited total of 82 times since 2009 for a variety of reasons, from
inadequate roof supports to accumulating dust to issues with the
electrical system. The company has been assessed fines ranging from $100 to as nearly $4,000, but is contesting nearly three-quarters
of the citations.

Tony Oppegard, a Lexington attorney who specializes in mine
safety issues, said there is reason for optimism. He said miners
caught in a mine with water coming in would normally head for the
highest point inside the mine. If James River Coal put a refuge
chamber in the mine, that would give the miners a place to go with
enough provisions for 72 hours, Oppegard said.

"There's been a great increase in mine rescue teams since the
disasters of the last several years. There's been a reemphasis on
mine rescue," Oppegard said.

Kentucky is the lone state where mine inspectors also comprise
the rescue squads, meaning the people searching for trapped miners should already be familiar with the terrain, Oppegard said.

And, James River Coal has an in-house rescue squad, whose
members should be familiar with the mine, Oppegard said. And,
Johnny Greene, executive director of the Frankfort office of the
state's mine safety and licensing division, used to be in charge of
mine rescues in Kentucky. Brown said Green was on his way to
Middlesboro to oversee the rescue.

"If I was trapped in a mine right now, there's nobody I would
want coming after me more than Johnny Greene," Oppegard said.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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