FAIRMONT — The explosion at the Sago Mine occurred in a mined-out area that had been sealed perhaps only weeks before the Jan. 2 disaster, state government records show.
A state mine safety inspector examined the seals Dec. 12 and determined that they were properly constructed, according to the records.
“The seals may be closed,” wrote John Collins, an inspector with the state Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training. “The seals are built as approved.”
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Less than three months before the blast, on Oct. 14, state regulators had approved a plan to seal an area of the mine called “2nd Left Mains.”
In media coverage, the bodies of 11 of the miners who died in the Sago disaster were reported found in “2nd Left.”
But actually, they were found in a new production section, called “2nd Left Parallel.” That section was located between the sealed “2nd Left” and another section called “1st left.”
In that sealing plan, state officials approved the use of “Omega blocks,” a product resembling dense plastic foam.
During a public meeting Thursday, C.A. Phillips said the explosion blew out the seal that protected the active mine workings from the mined-out 2nd Left area.
Officials from International Coal Group, which owned the mine, have said the explosion blew the seals into the active mine, a finding that led them to believe the blast occurred in the sealed-off section.
On Thursday, Phillips told the state Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety that, “The seals, made with foam, could withhold pressures of five pounds per square inch.”