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Consol pouring water into borehole to contain Blacksville mine fire

| Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 2:51 p.m.

Consol Energy Inc. said on Wednesday it identified the location of an underground fire at its Blacksville No. 2 mine on the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border and began pumping water into a borehole to try to contain it.

Working with federal and state officials, Consol said it started an aggressive plan to extinguish the fire with as much water as possible and to monitor carbon monoxide and methane levels in the mine.

Cecil-based Consol said Tuesday that smoke from an air shaft at the Blacksville mine prompted the safe evacuation of 121 day-shift workers. 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, said Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman Amy Louviere.

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.

On Wednesday, an existing borehole at the Orndoff shaft was opened and 250,000 gallons of water were pumped into the mine, Louviere said.

Consol spokeswoman Lynn Seay said the company is deploying three drilling rigs to drill additional boreholes near the Orndoff shaft to increase the amount of water, she said.

In addition, three sampling lines were lowered into the Orndoff shaft to monitor for carbon monoxide and methane.

On Tuesday, 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.

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

Consol said it cancelled all shifts so that the recovery plan can continue. It is not known when operations will resume. No personnel will enter the mine until it is determined that it is safe to do so, the company said.

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. He can be reached at 412-320-7882 or joravecz@tribweb.com.

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