Mining Accident in Mississippi

Pumps, 230-ton crane crucial to dramatic rescue effort

crystal springs

Emergency crews work to dig up the workers buried under a landslide in Copiah County on Friday. Part of the immersed bulldozer with one of the men is visible. Photo Credit: Elijah Baylis/The Clarion-Ledger

On the sixth day of recovery efforts in a disastrous Mississippi mining accident, one of the two men lost in the incident was found. While associated parties will not yet clarify whether the individual is dead or alive, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency confirmed that search and rescue crews did locate one of the two workers overnight on June 8.

According to a press release from the agency, rescue teams found the worker trapped inside equipment and are still trying to remove him. “We have recovered one of the bodies,” Amy Louviere of the Mine Safety and Health Administration‘s Media Relations department, told EA, also verifying that no identification could be released at this time and that they are still examining the condition of the recovered individual. Louivere also confirmed that recovery efforts continue as of the morning of June 9.

The two miners were buried when the Green Brothers gravel pit in Crystal Springs (Copiah County, Mississippi) collapsed June 3. They were working with an excavator and dump truck that were also buried in the accident. The workers trapped are James “Dee” Hemphill and Emmit Shorter.

Green Brothers Gravel Company and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) have been in charge of the recovery operation. Copiah County EMA, MEMA and other state resources are providing additional support.

Chronology of Events

On June 3, 2016, at approximately 1 p.m. EDT, the Mine Safety and Health Administration was notified that a slide of sand and slurry occurred at the Green Brothers Gravel Company Inc.’s Harmony Mine and Mill in Crystal Springs, Mississippi, entrapping two miners. The miners had been operating an excavator and dump truck when they became engulfed by the material. MSHA immediately dispatched agency officials to the site, including emergency responders. The agency is coordinating efforts with the company and state and local authorities.

The Copiah County Sheriff’s Office was first on the scene and began efforts to retrieve the two miners from the material. However, they were forced to halt rescue efforts due to additional slides from the rain-soaked material. A crane has been brought in to aid in the efforts to extract the fallen material.

Saturday, June 4
Recovery operations continued until 11:30 pm CDT Friday night and resumed at 6 am today. Workers continue to construct a road to allow the crane to reach the recovery site and hopefully locate the missing miners. MSHA family liaisons are currently on site with family members.

Sunday, June 5

Crystal Springs, Miss., 26 miles southwest of the state capital of Jackson.

Crystal Springs, Miss., 26 miles southwest of the state capital of Jackson.

Recovery operations resumed at 9 am. CDT. Approximately 25 men are working at the site. Mine employees have been used to build the road for crane access. A construction crew is conducting the crane operations/setup/hookup. Equipment includes a 230-ton crane, a CAT 336 excavator, an air compressor and haulage trucks.

Crews have been unsuccessful lifting the excavator. The crane will attempt to lift the haulage unit (a CAT articulated truck 730 C).

The operator will be gathering materials for pumps and begin staging. The crew is exhausted, so at this point will stop work for the night. The crane is in the process of tearing down and moving out of the pit, which should be complete at or around 9 pm CDT.

Monday, June 6
The team started the day evaluating another approach to removing the equipment, based on the inability of the crane to remove the truck and excavator.

The mine operator is pumping water from the area while they prep for mud/slurry pumps and the arrival of pumps from Alabama. A long reach excavator is en route. The operator also has contacted a recovery outfit that specializes in water recovery out of the Mississippi River area.

Pumps that can handle solids/heavy slurry are on site and the installation is in progress. Once installed, the system and setup will be reviewed. If all is well, pumping will begin.

Tuesday, June 7
The pumps ran thru the night with brief periods of routine stoppage to clear and reset the hydraulic pumping unit for better suction. The crews utilized water piped down to the area to wash the material from around the machines to the pump. The pump has slowly been moved in and beyond the location of the machines to remove the spilled material from the two units. Currently pumping has resumed following a brief stoppage for fuel and fuel filter change.

A state rescue/recovery team has been contacted and will be on site shortly with team evaluators to draw up a plan for extraction from the cabs should they become visible and the miners be inside the units. Progress is continuing with pumping, but the operator is also looking at alternate plans using a long reach excavator or the slurry dive team that conducted the Robinson Run Coal impoundment recovery in West Virginia.

The team uncovered the roof of the haul truck. The rescue crew is developing a plan to open the top to determine if victim is inside the cab.

They removed the top of the cab and did not find the victim.

The team then began work on the excavator and planned to continue through the night.

Wednesday, June 8
The team worked overnight to remove material around the excavator in an attempt to enter the cab. They are still moving sand to locate the cab of the excavator.

The team has not been able to locate the cab of the excavator. It appears the boom of the unit is twisted and not in line with the cab. The recovery team has been sent home for rest. During this time, contractors will resume applying water and pumping material around the excavator in an attempt to remove additional sand and mud to assist in locating the cab. This effort may take several hours.

Thursday, June 9

One of the miners’ bodies was located and recovered. Officials are unable to release information on the individual as of press time. 

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