This is awful. Initial reports say that a massive roof collapse at the Massey Energy Performance Coal Co. operation in Raleigh County, West Virginia caused the deaths of six miners and twenty one are still missing. The latter number of missing is cause for additional concern. Roof collapses are rarely survivable because the event is sudden and injuries are often blunt force trauma that incapacitates the miner at the moment he has to make critical life saving decisions (such as finding an air supply and escape route). WSAV in Charleston, West Virginia has updates (remember to refresh the page at the link for the latest reports).
Mine safety and rescue has improved dramatically since the Sago disaster at an ICG mine in West Virginia several years ago. But deep mining is an inherently dangerous business and rescue efforts can also be extremely risky (as happened at the Murray Energy accident two years ago in Utah when rescue crews also perished). Recent changes in MSHA regulations have placed emphasis on miner’s survivability after an accident such as making sure adequate air supplies and other protective gear are available underground at pre determined locations.
My consulting business has offered me the opportunity to understand on a very personal level many aspects of the coal mining business. Having gone underground many times on site visits I have never been able to shake the feeling of fear and danger when the shuttle car or man carrier passes through the face up of the mountainside. Please pray for these miners and particularly for their families.