April 5th, 2012
01:40 AM ET

Upper Big Branch mine to be permanently sealed

The Upper Big Branch coal mine, where 29 people were killed in a blast two years ago Thursday, will be permanently sealed by the summer.

Crews will seal with concrete the portals that allow entry to the mine, plug boreholes and cap mine fan shafts, said the mine's new owners Alpha Natural Resources.

"Though two years have passed, everyone still has vivid memories of the tragedy and the suffering the miners' families endured," said company Chief Executive Officer Kevin Crutchfield. "For all of us in the mining industry, it is a solemn reminder of why we must always put safety first in everything we do at work and at home."

The explosion at the West Virginia mine on April 5, 2010, was the deadliest U.S. mine disaster since 1972, when 91 men died in a fire at the Sunshine Mine in Kellogg, Idaho.

In a December report,the Mine Safety and Health Administration found a methane ignition that set off flammable coal dust was the immediate cause of the 2010 explosion.

But it also blamed the "unlawful policies and practices" of then-mine owner Massey Energy Co., which it said "promoted and enforced a workplace culture that valued production over safety."

Alpha Natural Resources bought Massey in 2011 and has agreed to a $209 million settlement to avoid prosecution. The deal includes payments of $1.5 million to each family that lost a member in the blast.

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Filed under: Mine accidents • U.S.
Gotta Watch: They were rescued, we watched
The Fenix 2 capsule is brought to the surface with the last trapped Chilean miner Luis Urzua from the San Jose mine, near Copiapo, Chile.
October 13th, 2011
11:40 AM ET

Gotta Watch: They were rescued, we watched

Today marks the one-year anniversary of a rescue that captivated the world's attention. On October 13, 2010, the world watched as 33 miners were brought to the surface in Chile after spending 69 days trapped more than 2,000 feet below ground.  In honor of this momentous and incredible rescue, we at Gotta Watch put together videos from other big news making rescues that we couldn't help but watch every step of the way.

Miners finally see daylight - They spent 69 days in the bowels of the earth, trapped deep below the surface.  For 17 days, nobody knew that the 33 men were alive after the San Jose Mine caved in.  The miraculous rescue of these miners made headlines around the world.  People around the globe celebrated as each and every miner was brought to safety and waited anxiously in hopes that the next miner would make it up alive. Here's your chance to relive the powerful moments from that rescue, starting from the first miner all the way to the last.


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Filed under: Chile miners trapped • Colorado • Gotta Watch • Hoax • Mine accidents • Mining • U.S.
October 4th, 2011
08:55 AM ET

State media: China mine accident kills 13

Thirteen miners were killed and five are still missing after a "gas outburst" Tuesday at a coal mine in China's southwestern Guizhou province, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Rescuers were continuing the search late Tuesday for the five missing miners at the Anping coal mine, the agency said. The bodies of 10 workers have been recovered.

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Filed under: China • Coal mining • Mine accidents • Mining
September 15th, 2011
09:16 AM ET

Four trapped in Wales coal mine

[Updated at 9:16 a.m. ET] Four people are trapped in a coal mine in Swansea Valley, South Wales, police confirmed Thursday.

Rescue services are at the scene at Gleision Colliery, a police spokeswoman said.

Seven people were in the mine when the incident occurred, and emergency services were called soon after 9 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET), the spokeswoman said.

Three of them got out of the mine and one has been taken to the hospital, she said, but his or her condition is unknown.

Local lawmaker Gwenda Thomas, who represents the Neath constituency in which the mine lies, near Cilybebyll, issued a statement saying she was heading back to the area.

"I am currently travelling back to Rhos community center from Cardiff. My thoughts are with all the family and friends of those currently trapped in the mine and I have confidence in all the emergency services at the scene."

A spokesman for Thomas, Robert James, told CNN the colliery was one of the few remaining drift mines operating in the area.

In a drift mine, coal is excavated from the side of a hill using shafts that are almost horizontal.

- CNN's Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Coal mining • Mining • Wales
Rescuers in China hear 'knocking' as they scramble to save 22 coal miners
Rescuers prepare to enter a flooded coal pit last week to rescue trapped workers in China's Hengtai coal mine.
August 29th, 2011
11:49 AM ET

Rescuers in China hear 'knocking' as they scramble to save 22 coal miners

Rescuers struggling to save 22 miners trapped underground in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province reported hearing "knocking sounds" within the mine early Monday, according to state-run media.

The report from the Hengtai coal mine, which has been flooded for a week, came about 2 a.m. after rescuers knocked on the sides of a 900-foot-deep hole that was drilled Sunday to make contact with the miners. The knocking is believed to be a response from the miners, Xinhua reported.

Relief supplies including food, a lamp, pen and paper were lowered down the hole, and something shook the rope to which the package was tied, but when rescuers brought the package back to the surface, it remained unopened, Xinhua said.

Forty-five miners were working Tuesday when the flooding occurred. Nineteen miners escaped, Xinhua reported, and rescue workers are attempting to pump water out of the mine.


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Filed under: China • Coal mining • Mine accidents • Mining • World
Scientists: Stuff to make cell phones may come from ocean floor
Soil containing rare-earth elements is loaded for shipment to a Chinese port last year.
July 4th, 2011
08:11 AM ET

Scientists: Stuff to make cell phones may come from ocean floor

Key raw materials necessary for modern devices such as cell phones, laptop computers and flat-screen TVs may be found in abundance on the ocean floor, Japanese scientists report in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Yasuhiro Kato and his colleagues at the University of Tokyo say they surveyed 78 sites on the Pacific Ocean floor and found high concentrations of rare-earth elements and the metal yttrium.

"We estimate that an area of just one square kilometer, surrounding one of the sampling sites, could provide one-fifth of the current annual world consumption of these elements," the scientists report.

And, the scientists say, the rare earths might not be difficult to extract.

"We show that rare-earth elements and yttrium are readily recovered from the mud by simple acid leaching, and suggest that deep-sea mud constitutes a highly promising huge resource for these elements," they wrote.

That would be good news for the market for rare earths, 97% of which now come from China, according to media reports. Recent Chinese moves to limit exports of rare-earth minerals has caused price spikes, Mother Nature News reports.

But writing on Nature.com, journalist Nicola Jones reports that deep-ocean rare-earth mining might not be that simple. Jones quotes Gareth Hatch of Illinois-based Technology Metals Research:

"People talk about mining on the asteroids or the moon. This isn't that hard, but it's similar."

But based on what we make with these minerals (read the Mother Nature News report), it may be a task the world want to take on.

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Filed under: Earth • Japan • Mining • Technology
Rescue efforts underway after explosion in Mexican mine traps 14
May 3rd, 2011
09:25 PM ET

Rescue efforts underway after explosion in Mexican mine traps 14

[Updated at 9:25 p.m.] Rescue efforts were starting Tuesday night at a mine in northern Mexico where 14 workers were trapped in a mine shaft after an explosion, state media reported.

A local civil protection official said toxic gases had dissipated enough to allow rescuers to begin exploring the mine's tunnels, the state-run Notimex news agency said.

The mine is located just outside Sabinas, Mexico, in the heart of Mexico's coal mining region.

[Updated at 2:11 p.m.] An explosion left 14 miners trapped inside a mine shaft just outside of Sabinas, Mexico, in the heart of Mexico's coal mining region, Mayor Jesus Montemayor Garza told CNN Tuesday.

The blast - at a mine run by the company BIMSA - happened Tuesday morning, the mayor said.

"It's very painful for us," Montemayor said. "At this time we don't know if the 14 miners trapped are dead or alive. It's going to be a complicated operation because of the way the mine shaft was built."

The mine shaft is 60 meters (197 feet) deep, he said.

"We're all hoping the miners are still alive," he added.

Sixteen rescuers from the Coahuila state civil protection agency were working at the site, and 20 other rescuers were in the area ready to relieve the first group, the mayor said.

Methane gas in the shaft was complicating and delaying rescue attempts, he said.

CNN's Rafael Romo contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Mexico • Mine accidents • Mining
Official: Man trapped after roof of Idaho mine collapses 75 feet
The roof of the Lucky Friday mine, owned by Hecla Mining Company, collapsed Friday.
April 16th, 2011
05:40 PM ET

Official: Man trapped after roof of Idaho mine collapses 75 feet

The roof of a northeast Idaho mine collapsed Friday, trapping a man inside and setting off a complex rescue operation to save him, the mine's owner and operator said Saturday.

The miner was one of two men working in part of the Lucky Friday mine when a 10-foot by 20-foot section of earth fell about 75 feet on him around 5:30 p.m. Friday, according to Phil Baker, the president and CEO of the Hecla Mining Company.

While the other man was able to get out unharmed, the trapped miner hasn't been heard from since.

"We're doing everything we can to reach the employee and will continue to make every effort, as long as it takes," said Baker, whose company has owned and operated the mine outside Mullan since 1958. "We are going to bring him out - that is what we're working toward right now."

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Filed under: Mine accidents
Tuesday's live video events
April 5th, 2011
07:35 AM ET

Tuesday's live video events

There's a bit of a budget battle in Washington as President Obama and Congress look to prevent some kind of a government shutdown.  Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of the budget crisis.

Today's programming highlights...

10:00 am ET - 9/11 military trials hearing - Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday that the suspects in the 9/11 attacks on the United States would be tried in military tribunals and not civilian courts.  A House judiciary subcommittee will discuss the matter and more.


Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Budget • Coal mining • District of Columbia • Earthquake • Economy • Japan • Justice • Libya • Mine accidents • Mining • Natural Disasters • On CNN.com today • Politics • September 11 • Terrorism • Tsunami • U.S. • War • West Virginia • World
Rare dinosaur fossil discovered in Canadian oil sand
Suncor Energy workers Michel Gratton and Shawn Funk found this rare specimen while mining oil sand in northern Canada.
March 30th, 2011
11:42 AM ET

Rare dinosaur fossil discovered in Canadian oil sand

Workers at an oil sand site in Canada have found a 110 million-year-old fossil of a dinosaur previously unknown in that area, Alberta's Royal Tyrrell Museum announced.

Employees of Suncor Energy, the parent company of Sunoco and PetroCanada, stopped work last week near Fort McMurray, Alberta, when supervisor Michel Gratton and shovel operator Shawn Funk found a large lump of dirt with an unusual texture and diamond patterns.


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Filed under: Animals • Canada • Dinosaurs • History • Mining • Science • World
On the Radar: Libya violence escalates; Muslim radicalization; rare earth elements
Refugees head toward Libya's border with Tunisia on Wednesday.
March 9th, 2011
10:03 AM ET

On the Radar: Libya violence escalates; Muslim radicalization; rare earth elements

Libya - Violence in Moammar Gadhafi's Libya was increasing Wednesday as forces loyal to the strongman unleashed bombs and artillery on makeshift rebel forces in the eastern oil city of Ras Lanuf. The latest fighting followed another defiant speech from Gadhafi that aired Tuesday night on state television, in which he again insisted that youths misled and drugged by al Qaeda were to blame for the fighting.

Peter King - The New York Republican congressman says he is determined to use his powerful post as House Homeland Security Committee chairman to hold a highly controversial hearing on what he has dubbed radicalization of Muslims in the United States. Dana Bash, CNN's senior congressional correspondent, profiles the man who says he thinks every day about the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Rare earth elements - They are the elements which occupy those two orphaned rows at the bottom of the periodic table. They're essential for our cell phones, our computer hard drives, our HDTVs. And they are running short. China, which controls supplies of 97% of these materials, doesn't like sharing them with the West. And the only U.S. mine for rare earth elements went out of production after a radioactive waste accident in the 1990s. CNN's John Sutter looks at what rare earth elements mean to us.

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Filed under: Earth • Libya • Mining • National security • On the Radar • September 11 • Terrorism • World
Man who fell in Nevada mine dies
Rescue teams were called in to find the body of Devin Westenskow, but authorities determined the mine he fell into was too dangerous to enter.
March 5th, 2011
07:10 PM ET

Man who fell in Nevada mine dies

The man who fell into an abandoned northern Nevada mine earlier this week has been declared dead, an official said Saturday.

The Pershing County, Nevada, coroner made the determination around 12:30 Friday afternoon, U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Doran Sanchez said.

There was no safe way to retrieve the body and that the shaft would be sealed, Sanchez said.


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Filed under: Mining • Nevada
March 4th, 2011
08:07 PM ET

Rescuers call off Nevada mine rescue because of 'dangerous conditions'

A 28-year-old man who fell into an abandoned mine in Nevada may have to stay there until conditions at the mine allow for his rescue, officials said.

The man fell Wednesday at the Murphy Mine Complex, which dates back to 1895 and is located about 60 miles south of Winnemucca in Pershing County, said spokeswoman JoLynn Worley of the state Bureau of Land Management.

Rescuers went down the shaft but could not find him. They did, however, find him upon sending a camera down the shaft, and at 8 p.m. PT Thursday, he was alive and moving his hands.

“It appears that due to the hazardous and dangerous conditions of that shaft, the rescue efforts were stopped,” Worley said.

As of 3 a.m. Friday, the camera was still recording him. He was breathing, but there was no movement, she said.

A U.S. Navy Search and Rescue team is assisting regional authorities and the Newmont Mining Corp. in the rescue.

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Filed under: Mine accidents • Nevada • U.S.
Obama portrays small business owner as man who did 'big things'
Brandon Fisher's small business manufactured equipment used to find and rescue 33 trapped miners in Chile last year.
January 25th, 2011
11:45 PM ET

Obama portrays small business owner as man who did 'big things'

Brandon Fisher has tried to avoid the publicity that comes with playing a key role in two of the last decade's biggest mine rescues.

But when the President of the United States wants to mention you in his State of the Union speech, and the first lady invites you to sit with her, there's really no way to decline.

And so, Fisher donned a suit and tie and showed up with his wife, Julie, as guests in Michelle Obama's box during President Barack Obama's second State of the Union address to the nation.

In the eyes of the President, the small business owner from Berlin, Pennsylvania, was not just an honored guest of the evening. He was a symbol of the American dream - alongside Vice President Joe Biden, "a working class kid from Scranton" and Speaker of the House John Boehner, "who began by sweeping the floors of his father's Cincinnati bar" - someone of modest means who would go on to "do big things," Obama said.


Thursday's intriguing people
December 16th, 2010
02:02 PM ET

Thursday's intriguing people

Grace Mugabe

The first lady of Zimbabwe has filed a defamation suit demanding $15 million from a newspaper that quoted a 2008 diplomatic cable alleging she profited from the illegal diamond trade.

The Standard, a Harare-based Sunday newspaper, this week quoted WikiLeaks-released U.S. cables saying rumors that Mugabe and Gideon Gono, the Reserve Bank governor, were profiting off of the diamonds are true.

In short, the paper alleged the cables show that Gono made thousands of dollars each month off diamond dealing and funneled money to Mugabe, her sister-in-law and members of Zimbabwe’s ruling party.

“The diamonds that are sold to regime members and elites are sold for freshly printed Zimbabwean notes issued by the (Reserve Bank),” The Standard quoted British mining executive Andrew Cranswick as saying in a 2008 document.

According to Britain’s The Guardian, the Marange district of Zimbabwe has been the “scene of a frenzied diamond rush in recent years.”

In court papers, Mugabe called the allegations printed in The Standard false and malicious and said they damaged her credibility, Al-Jazeera reported.

“Whatever it prints is regarded as gospel truth by those people in Zimbabwe and abroad,” the network quoted court documents as saying.

Mugabe, in the past, has been the subject of media reports questioning her lavish tastes as first lady of a country where inflation has soared and a majority of citizens live below the poverty line.


November 23rd, 2010
11:04 PM ET

Miners trapped underground in New Zealand dead, police say

All 29 miners trapped underground in a New Zealand mine are dead, Gary
Knowles, superintendent from Tasman Police Command said Wednesday.

Air released from the drilling contained high levels of carbon monoxide and methane but little oxygen, police officials have said.

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Filed under: Australia • Mine accidents
November 22nd, 2010
04:51 PM ET

Setback reported in search for New Zealand miners

A robot dispatched to peer into the New Zealand coal mine where 29 miners are trapped has broken down inside the mine, and families of the men are "extremely frustrated," police said Tuesday morning.

The military-operated robot was expected to be a key part of the search for any survivors. But Gary Knowles, superintendent of the Tasman Police District, told reporters Tuesday morning that the robot's operators told him the probe had stopped operating.

No one has heard from the men - ages 17 to 62 - since an explosion inside the mine around 4 p.m. Friday.


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Filed under: Mine accidents • New Zealand
November 22nd, 2010
12:31 PM ET

Trapped New Zealand miner, 17, was on job for one hour

Joseph Dunbar had celebrated his 17th birthday, local media reported.

One of the 29 people trapped in a New Zealand coal mine is a teenage boy who’d only been on the job for an hour when an explosion rocked the mine.

Joseph Dunbar had celebrated his 17th birthday last Thursday, according to news reports from New Zealand.

His mother, Philippa Timms, told the New Zealand Herald that she and her son had recently moved to the area on New Zealand’s southern island to get a fresh start in life.

"We moved here for Joseph, to give him a different life, a better life," the Herald quoted her as saying. Her son’s top goal soon became getting a job at the mine, she said.

"It was a turning point in his life, he was going a little bit wayward... He got offered this chance to have a career, and that's how he saw it," a story on the TVNZ website quotes her as saying.

The teen was supposed to start his new job on Monday, but he went into the mine for a get-acquainted tour on Friday and then asked to hang around for the rest of the shift, according to news reports.

"He wanted to stay there and see how everything operated. He just wanted to be part of it," Gary Campbell, Philippa Timms partner, told TVNZ.

An explosion rocked the Pike River mine around 4 p.m. on Friday. No one has heard from the miners since. Toxic gas was lingering and hampering rescue efforts. Rescuers were hoping to get a robot into the mine soon.


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Filed under: Mine accidents • New Zealand
November 21st, 2010
09:24 PM ET

Dangerous conditions delay New Zealand coal mine rescue

A toxic mix of gasses inside a New Zealand coal mine kept frustrated rescue workers on the sidelines again Monday, as they waited for the go-ahead to try to reach 29 miners trapped underground.

No one has heard from the men - ages 17 to 62 - since an explosion inside the mine around 4 p.m. Friday afternoon. Officials hope they are alive, though they do not know if the men found a safe haven or whether parts or all of the mine collapsed.


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Filed under: Coal mining • Mine accidents • New Zealand
November 20th, 2010
11:16 AM ET

Official: Gas prevents rescue of New Zealand miners

Authorities listed the nationalities Saturday of the 29 miners trapped in a New Zealand coal mine and said gas levels inside are still too high to attempt a rescue.

Most of the miners are New Zealanders, but there are also two Australians, two Britons, and one South African, New Zealand Police said.

Air samples taken late Saturday afternoon indicated the gas levels inside the Pike River mine were still high, making the risk for rescuers too great, said Gary Knowles, superintendent of the Tasman Police District, who is heading the rescue effort.


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Filed under: Coal mining • New Zealand • World
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