Image Source: Edited screen capture from Flickr.

It has been 2 days since the explosion occurred at the West Virginian coal mine and there is still no sign of the 4 missing miners.

Rescue teams are drilling 3 holes into the mine in an attempt to ventilate the poisonous gas from the mine so they can continue the search. After the first hole was finished, rescue workers banged on a drill pipe for nearly 15 minutes, but there was no response. The miners are trained to bang on the drill’s casing in return, as well as on metal bolts connected to the mine roof, as a response.

It is believed that a build up of methane gas is what may have triggered the explosion to happen. The Massey Energy Co. owned mine also has a history of violations, particularly when it comes to their ventilation system (which is used to clear out highly combustible gas). However, rather than pay off their huge fines—which have accumulated to over $1 million in the past year alone—they simply file a lot of appeals and only pay small amounts when they absolutely have to. Only 16% of last year’s fines have been paid thus far.

There are also plans to set off small explosions on the surface to send a seismic signal to the mine. However, once the methane is ventilated enough for the search to continue, it will take at least 4 or 5 hours for the rescue team to get far enough into the mine to search for the missing 4 people. At this point, they are looking at making at descent of at least 1,000 feet into the mine.

There is a bit of good news, though. At least 2 miners are currently hospitalized. One is doing quite well, but the other is currently in intensive care. Federal regulators also plan to review all of Massey’s safety violations and there is also a special team of investigators appointed by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to look into the explosion further. Of course, Massey CEO, Don Blankenship, is taking no blame or responsibility for the blast whatsoever. He claimed that:

“I don’t know that MSHA thought there was a problem.”

He also added that the families of those killed were angry and made “a lot of derogatory comments” during meetings with company officials and “they’re looking for some way to release their anger and that’s just the way it is”. I would certainly be angry, too; especially if the explosion could have been avoided if proper ventilation systems had been installed.

The death toll from this explosion is the highest to happen in a US mine since the 1984 fire in Orangeville, Utah, which killed 27. However, if the 4 missing people also turn up dead, it will bring the death count up to 29 and make it the highest since the 1970 explosion, which killed 38 workers in Hyden, Kentucky.