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Pace of mine search picks up

August 14, 2007|From the Associated Press

huntington, utah -- The pace of rescuers' efforts to dig out six miners trapped underground picked up "substantially" Monday evening, with miners able to claw continuously at loose rubble that nearly fills a main passageway, a top mining executive said.

For the first time since the Aug. 6 collapse, the rescuers were progressing steadily forward, in contrast to the frequent interruptions that have characterized the rescue effort so far, said Robert E. Murray, chief of Murray Energy Corp., which owns the Crandall Canyon Mine.

"The progress underground has picked up substantially," Murray told the Associated Press on Monday evening after he delivered a private briefing for family members.

The effort could take several more days, but Murray said his miners were moving quickly. Murray also said that drill crews were starting to bore a third hole into the mine in an effort to locate the men.

Ghostly video images taken Sunday from another drill hole showed a miner's tool bag, shards of broken rock, a twisted conveyor belt and dripping water but no signs of the six miners.

"It's absolutely heartbreaking that we haven't found them alive," said Murray, adding that he still considered the work a rescue, not a recovery.

The video showed faint images only as far as about 15 feet away.

Murray said the tool bag belonged to one of the miners, who may have been hundreds of feet away when a thunderous collapse blew out the walls of mine shafts while leaving reinforced ceilings intact.

The images were released as rescuers prepared to drill a third hole into a far reach of the mine where officials believe a pocket of good air could sustain the miners.

A 2 1/2 -inch-wide hole and a nearly 9-inch-wide hole drilled last week have found no sign of life where the miners were working when a collapse hit the mine.

Twelve of the 80 miners working on the rescue have asked to be reassigned because of what Murray called "tectonic activity."

"They've been somewhat frightened," he said.

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