Whitesburg KY

Pike mine is flooded


Workers are pumping millions of gallons of water out of a mine in Pike County after it was shut down for safety reasons, and the effort could last at least two weeks, officials said.

Officials with the Mine Safety and Health Administration ordered the Freedom Energy Mine at Sidney Coal Company to close after water built up in a sealed portion of the underground mine. Officials were worried the seal could fail and send water into a work area, an incident commonly known as a blowout.

Sidney Coal is a subsidiary of Richmond, Va.-based Massey Energy. Massey spokesman Jeff Gillenwater said 28 of the 162 miners employed at Freedom Energy were inactivated. The rest were moved to other mines while the water is pumped out.

“Once the mine reopens, the employees will be brought back,” he said. Gillenwater said Friday that the pumping would likely continue for two weeks or longer.

“It’s being monitored 24 hours a day,” he said.

Wayne T. Rutherford, Pike County judge-executive, said in a statement the incident was an other example of the vulnerability of the area to mine blowouts.

“There are millions of gallons of water under these mountains and coal fields,” Rutherford said. “We know it’s there, but we haven’t been able to get any funding to try and take care of the problem.”

The state’s Division of Water granted Sidney Coal a temporary authorization to release the water into nearby Rockhouse Creek.

“Of the various options, an authorization from the cabinet to allow release of the water is the most appropriate remedy to ensure the process is done in an environmentally responsible and timely manner,” said Len Peters, secretary of the Energy and Environment Cabinet.

Gillenwater said the company is also taking steps to prevent another buildup of groundwater.

State officials are monitoring the water being drained and taking samples, said Carl Campbell, commissioner of the state Department for Natural Resources.

After the water is drained, the mine must be inspected and certified by federal and state officials before miners are allowed to return to work.

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