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Smoke at Consol's Blacksville mine forces evacuation

| Tuesday, March 12, 2013, 5:51 p.m.

Consol Energy Inc. said on Tuesday that smoke from an air shaft at its Blacksville No. 2 mine on the border of Pennsylvania and West Virginia prompted the safe evacuation of 121 day-shift workers.

Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman Amy Louviere said three people “were working the area of where the fire appears to be located.”

MSHA Coal Mine Safety and Health personnel were doing inspection work at the mine — considered a West Virginia mine even though the portal is located across the border in Greene County — and ordered an evacuation, Louviere said.

Initially, one mine rescue team plus a backup team were sent underground to locate a fire. When the teams felt heat and encountered heavy smoke, they withdrew from the mine, she said.

United Mine Workers spokesman Phil Smith said smoke was too thick for teams to find the source, but “something's burning.”

Smoke was detected at 2 p.m. coming out of the mine's Orndoff air shaft. Workers were evacuated through the mine's Kuhntown portal. Both the Kuhntown portal — about 15 miles south of Waynesburg — and the Orndoff shaft are located in Greene County.

Consol spokeswoman Lynn Seay said the company is working with state and federal authorities to determine the exact location and origin of the smoke. Officials were meeting Tuesday night to determine the next course of action.

The Blacksville mine, which has about 650 workers, produces steam coal for power plants, with production of 3.2 million tons in 2012.

Consol said it canceled afternoon and midnight work shifts. It is not known when mine operations will resume.

Blacksville is a town in Monongalia County, W.Va., with a population of 171 as of the 2010 census.

John D. Oravecz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Staff writer Michael Hasch contributed to this report.

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