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UPDATE: Search for individuals in abandoned mine is stalled


CLEAR CREEK, W.Va. — Heavy snow is hampering efforts to access an abandoned coal mine in Raleigh County where authorities fear four individuals may be lost.

Crews from the state Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training along with a mine rescue team from Alpha Natural Resources entered the Elk Run Coal Company’s Rock House Powellton Mine at Clear Creek on Sunday after an ATV the group had been riding was found near the mine. The team quickly encountered water and backed out of the mine Sunday afternoon. Snowfall made access to the area where the group may have entered the mine difficult.

A team of soldiers from the West Virginia National Guard using three Humvees is involved in the effort to help officials get to the area where the group may have entered the mine.

The Rockhouse Powellton Mine was closed and sealed two years ago. Officials say entering any mine after it is sealed is dangerous since conditions can rapidly deteriorate underground with poor air quality, roof falls, and flooding.

It’s the third incident in as many weeks in which people have entered abandoned mines to either explore or steal copper cable. Governor Jim Justice was outraged and issued a stern warning against the practice in a statement put out Sunday.

“All West Virginians who are driving, riding ATV’s, or hiking near abandoned mines please STOP entering the abandoned mines. This is extremely irresponsible behavior that puts our first responders and mine safety crews in unsafe situations when they should be focused on ensuring safety at active mines. I cannot stress enough how dangerous these abandoned mines are and how hazardous they are to humans.”

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