One worker was injured. The mine was evacuated and shut down. High concentrations of methane gas will have to be cleared from the underground mine before inspection teams from the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) begin their investigation. The company reported it continues its surface mine operations.
Trona ore is processed into soda ash, a key ingredient in glass and detergent making, and a widely used industrial chemical. Ninety percent of the world's natural soda ash production comes from five mines in southwest Wyoming.
Solvay was the site of another cave-in five years ago, on Feb. 3, 1995. Fifty-four miners were working in the mine 1,600 feet below ground at the time. Two were trapped by falling rock and rubble. One shuttle-car operator was rescued after 36 hours, but the second miner, 26-year-old Mike Anderson, died of cardiac arrest as he was being evacuated by a mine rescue team.
In a report after the 1995 collapse, which created a magnitude 5.2 seismic shock, MSHA concluded, "The company's mine pillars were too small--too much ore being extracted--and a massive pillar failure occurred." The report also concluded that Solvay had not violated any federal safety regulations, but an article in the Casper Star Tribune on Feb. 1, 2000, stated, "The agency (MSHA) did suggest that Solvay slow the rate of trona extraction to increase safety in the mine."
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home