CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia governor Jim Justice has asked people to stop trespassing in abandoned coal mines after a search-and-rescue operation was launched Sunday for the second time in as many weeks.
“All West Virginians who are driving, riding ATVs or hiking near abandoned mines, please stop entering the abandoned mines,” Justice said. “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.”
The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training confirmed earlier in the day that it was assisting the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office in the search for four individuals reported missing near the Elk Run Coal Company’s Rock House Powellton Mine in Clear Creek.
The MHS&T mine rescue team was activated early Sunday morning after an abandoned ATV the individuals were believed to be riding was found near the mine entrance. Members of the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office, along with officials from the mining company and MHS&T, met to assess the situation and prepare an action plan.
A team of four rescuers comprised of two members from MHST and two from parent company Alpha Natural Resources, entered the mine at approximately 1 p.m. to begin the search.
Eugene White, MHS&T director, said it may be several hours before additional updates are available.