Two dive plans in place for recovery of missing Consol miner - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Two dive plans in place for recovery of missing Consol miner

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This DEP photo shows the curve of the collapsed section at the bottom, the expected location of the bulldozer ("incident"), and the curtain that will isolate mine operations from recovery. This DEP photo shows the curve of the collapsed section at the bottom, the expected location of the bulldozer ("incident"), and the curtain that will isolate mine operations from recovery.
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Updated 4:40 Wednesday with corrected number of barges.

Two plans are in place for recovering the miner trapped in Consol Energy's Robinson Run slurry impoundment.

The plans, formed in cooperation with federal and state regulators, mine experts and recovery personnel, are aimed at recovering the miner from the bulldozer that was dragged into the impoundment on Friday when a section of dam under construction collapsed.

A longer-term plan acts as back up for a short-term plan, Consol Vice President of Safety Lou Barletta explained in a Dec. 5 media briefing.

The quicker approach is a "pipe dive."

Two 20-foot sections of pipe with a 46-inch inside diameter will be welded together.

The 40-foot pipe will be lowered over the bulldozer, which rests at 22 feet below the surface in an uncertain orientation.

Water jets at the bottom of the pipe will flush sediment out and clear access for diving experts from Louisiana who are already on site.

The divers will work in the dark, but a similar bulldozer has been made available to them to study before diving.

Consol expects to be able to begin the pipe diver process this weekend, pending approvals and pipe installation.

Should that approach fail, crews are still pursuing an approach outlined on Sunday: to wall off the bulldozer using sheet pilings — Barletta called this a cofferdam — and pump sediment out of that isolated area to create access for divers.

"Approximately 14" barges were moved in on Monday and Tuesday and are being anchored around the submerged bulldozer to create a recovery work site and work already is under way on the longer-term approach, and trailers have been brought on-site for crew meetings and housing.

No one yet knows if the missing miner will be found in the bulldozer, he said.

Barletta cleared up some confusion in company and agency updates about the operations status of the mine.

The mine was idled over the weekend and development mining activity resumed Monday morning, he said.

Wednesday morning, longwall operations resumed, but that coal is being stockpiled—not washed — until the inlet side of the slurry impoundment — where slurry is piped in whenever washing takes place — can be isolated from the recovery area.

In order to do that, a boom curtain is being installed across the impoundment. A chemical flocculant also will be added to the incoming slurry to help settle sediment quickly, Barletta said.

Consol expects to re-start preparation plant operations this afternoon, pending regulatory approval of the plan.

The family of the missing miner is being kept informed about the recovery operations, said Consol spokesperson Lynn Seay, but has asked that the name of the miner be withheld for now.

Seay and Barletta stressed that, while an investigation has begun, there is no information yet as to the cause of the embankment collapse.