An inundation accident in mining is the sudden unplanned influx of liquid, gas or other substance into a mine, either underground or surface. The last recorded fatalities in the US from inundation were two in 2016.
Four Methods Of Inundation
The CDC reports four ways that this kind of accident can occur:
- Flash flooding and heavy rainfall that swells creeks and rivers and forces water into a mine shaft, blocking exit routes when the water settles into lower areas of a mine tunnel.
- Mining an area that’s adjacent to an abandoned mine that’s flooded. Older mines could be inaccurately mapped, and their locations unclear. Drilling near an older mine can cut into it, flooding the newer one. The best way to avoid inundating a newer mine is to drill with a small probe that will tell if another mine is flooded, and help avoid flooding the new mining area
- Coal slurry, a mining waste left over from the mining process, isn’t properly contained. An impoundment is a confinement area that holds all the mining waste. If not properly built, the impoundment may fail, leaving the slurry and other waste to flood into the mining area
- Mining under a body of water (lake, river, or other aquifer) brings the risk of damage to the ground underneath. If this happens, the mine can be quickly flooded by that body of water.
Mining engineers are reminded to provide multiple escape routes to ensure that miners are able to escape in the event of inundation. Unexpected inrushes of water from undetected mines in the same area are best prevented by drilling to find the mines that are flooded. Unfortunately, since drilling is expensive, many companies rely on electronic remote sensing and other non-drilling techniques that may not be entirely accurate.
Lessons Learned Since Quecreek, PA
After this mining accident happened in 2002, there has been more study about inundation from cut-through accidents and preventing them the way other accidents are prevented. In the Quecreek accident, everyone was rescued, and there were many lessons learned about relying on electronic equipment. One of the biggest takeaways was that old mine maps can be woefully inaccurate, and in some cases, outright fabricated.
A 2002 joint project between Carnegie Mellon, Stanford and the University of Frieberg in Germany created the first robot designed to go into dangerous mining areas, called GroundHog.
That project has since to numerous robotic innovations and experimentation. Robots can be used to enter abandoned and flooded mines, as well as investigate mines for types of deposits (such as rare earth minerals.) Useful and unique autonomous robots for mining as well as other applications are now available for sale online as well. However, like autonomous cars, fully autonomous robots aren’t yet able to reopen abandoned mines and determine their safety for humans.
Mining Accident Attorney In West Virginia
Inundations accidents can happen unexpectedly, at any time. They happen fast, and miners may not be able to get out without injuries.
The Love Law Firm is Charleston, West Virginia’s personal injury law firm with more than 20 years of extensive experience handling all types of accident claims. Call our mining accident attorney today at 304-344-5683 (or use our online contact form) and schedule a free consultation. Our contingency fee arrangement means you won’t pay unless we win your case and recover money.