A new report on the 2002 flood that nearly killed nine coal miners at Quecreek, Somerset County, concludes that decades-old mine maps that could have averted the disaster were stored and forgotten in a closet at the Consol Energy office in Upper St. Clair.
Rescue workers raced for 77 hours to free the nine miners, who burrowed into millions of gallons of water on July 24, 2002 stored in the nearby abandoned Saxman Mine.
The maps the miners depended on were based on an incomplete and uncertified Consol Energy print that arrived with the sale of the mineral rights to Somerset County’s Mincorp and several other investors 10 years earlier, according to U.S. Mine Safety & Health Agency investigators. Based on the faulty map, state and federal regulators granted Mincorp a permit to mine the coal in 1999.
But during those years Consol possessed the most complete records known to investigators of the Saxman works, including crucial 1964 mine maps, coal tonnage reports, mineral tax records and correspondence from regulators, inspectors and deceased mine owners, according to John Correll, deputy assistant secretary for Mine Safety and Health in Washington D.C.