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Last Updated: Friday, 10 August 2007, 09:13 GMT 10:13 UK
Drill reaches Utah mine chamber
US rescuers work near the blocked tunnel in the Crandall Canyon mine, Utah
Rescuers are also trying to reach the men through the mine's tunnel

Rescuers in the US state of Utah have drilled through to a mine cavity where six miners are believed trapped, but have not yet detected any sound.

The rescue crew drilled a narrow hole and lowered a microphone into the collapsed Crandall Canyon coal mine.

No contact has been made with the miners, who have been trapped 1,500ft (457m) underground since Monday.

Tests carried out at the site showed the air quality was good, the mine's co-owner told reporters.

"That means if they're alive, they're going to stay alive in that atmosphere," said Bob Murray, chairman of Murray Energy Corporation.

CRANDALL CANYON MINE
Located in Manti-La Sal National Forest, 16 miles (25km) from Huntington
Uses the "retreat mining" method, which experts say is one of most dangerous
Coal pillars hold up area of mine's roof. When completely mined, pillars are pulled, causing intentional roof collapse

He said a 2.5-inch (6.4cm) drill had pierced through the cavity on Thursday night.

But asked if the miners were definitely in the chamber, Mr Murray said: "No, we can't be sure but we think so. We think that's where they are... They didn't move far, I'm sure, from that area".

Rescuers are still working on drilling a wider 9-inch (23cm) hole through which a camera could be passed to check for signs of life, and water and food could be delivered.

Mr Murray said it could take at least another four or five days to bring the men out.

Rescue teams have been drilling round-the-clock through a mountain above the mine to reach the men, who include three Mexican citizens.

The group is thought to be 3.4 miles (5.5km) from the mine entrance, 140 miles (225km) from Salt Lake City.

Cause unclear

Initially the collapse was blamed on an earthquake, but experts have since suggested the shafts might have caved in with enough force to register on seismographs.

Rescuers drill through a mountain above the mine in Utah
The drilling is still continuing on a wider hole
This has led to speculation mining procedures could have triggered the incident.

It has been claimed the workers were using a risky technique known as "retreat mining", where the last standing pillars of coal are pulled down and the roof is allowed to fall in.

But Mr Murray has rejected this, saying an earthquake caused the collapse.

US federal mining inspectors have issued 325 citations for alleged safety violations at the mine since January 2004. Of those, 116 were considered "significant and substantial" and likely to cause injury.

Experts have said the number of citations is not unusual, and the mine's owners say they run a safe mine.

Graphic showing layout and approximate location of trapped miners




SEE ALSO
Utah mine rescue 'is suspended'
08 Aug 07 |  Americas
Trapped US miners rescued
28 Jul 02 |  Americas
Two die in US mine roof collapse
14 Jan 07 |  Special Reports
US mining safety under scrutiny
05 Jan 06 |  Americas

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