Rescuers found the bodies of five of the seven miners who went missing after the disaster in the Pniówek mine in April 2022. The transport of the bodies to the surface was successful, said Tomasz Siemieniec, spokesman for Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa, which owns the mine, in an evening statement. The operation continues and attempts to reach the two remaining miners continue.
“Five miners were found in the N-12 longwall gallery, behind the entrance to the N-6 longwall. Due to the difficult conditions of the operation, the transport of the found miners to the surface will take about 24 hours,” JSW spokesman Tomasz Siemieniec said on Monday morning.
However, in the evening message he announced that the miners had been transported to the surface. “The rescue operation is still being carried out underground. After a meeting of the team extended by specialists at the operation headquarters, the operation manager decided to continue the search for the remaining two miners in the N-6 longwall – by penetrating the wall from the side of the N-12 longwall heading. The rescuers will attempt to clear the rubble. wall inlet. If, after clearing a section of the wall, it turns out that the rescue operation can be carried out safely, it will be continued. So far, 82 rescue teams have taken part in the operation,” added the JSW spokesman.
According to unofficial information, the workers whose bodies were found were members of the rescue team that was helping the injured miners after the first methane explosion.
Earlier in the day, rescuers also attempted to enter the N-6 mining wall, where the remaining two missing people are located – a shearer operator and a longwall miner.
“Unfortunately, it turned out that the conditions in the wall do not allow the rescue operation to be carried out safely. After transporting the found miners, the wall area will be dammed again,” said a spokesman for the Jastrzębie-based company in a morning statement.
It was decided that in order to reach the place where the two missing people are likely to be, an additional comma (one or two) will be drilled from the N-9 ramp to the N-6 wall. “Drilling the clearing and preparing for the next action may take about a month,” the spokesman estimated at the time.
For several months they drilled a pavement to connect with the disaster area
On April 20 last year, 16 miners lost their lives as a result of a series of methane explosions in the Pniówek mine and mine rescuers who rushed to help the injured after the first explosion. Seven of them remained behind the dams, which after the disaster separated the fire area from the other excavations.
To reach the missing people, it was necessary to dig a new tunnel, almost 350 meters long, parallel to the dammed mining wall. The work took several months. On Saturday, rescuers broke through to the disaster area and began to penetrate it, finding the bodies of five of the seven miners.
From Saturday morning to Monday, 61 rescue teams took part in the operation carried out one thousand meters underground in the Pniówek mine, including 16 teams from the Central Mining Rescue Station in Bytom.
Before the new gallery that had been drilled for several months was finally connected to the disaster area, rescuers ventilated the workings through specially drilled holes. After obtaining an atmosphere allowing the operation to be carried out safely, the last five meters of the gallery were excavated, connecting the two workings. Later, penetration of the disaster area began.
The rescue operation was carried out in very difficult conditions. To enter the mine, where the temperature reached 40 degrees Celsius and the humidity was close to 100 percent, it was necessary to introduce the so-called flue pipe to ventilate and cool the section of the excavation. The search was resumed after obtaining appropriate climatic conditions.
In February, they returned to the disaster area for the first time
For the first time since last year’s disaster, mining rescuers returned to the area of the N-6 longwall in February this year. According to the action plan, they then narrowed the dammed area to the workings located closer to the N-6 wall by building two light insulating dams based on chemical foams. Work on narrowing the dammed area of the N-6 wall and penetration of the undammed N-6 ramp then completed the first stage of the search operation.
Further work carried out by rescuers as part of preventive measures included the construction of new explosion-proof dams, unclogging the dammed workings (a 100-meter-long floodplain was removed, among others) and dismantling and removing old machines from the galleries, including the excavated material hauling equipment. Later, drilling of a new sidewalk began, which lasted until last Saturday.
For nearly 9 months, when the entire wide disaster area was dammed, efforts were made to lower the temperature there and achieve a safe composition of the atmosphere. For this purpose, among others, nitrogen.
They will no longer mine coal in the disaster area
Coal mining will not be resumed in the disaster area in the future, the mining wall has already finished its run. After the rescue operation is completed and the bodies of all the missing persons have been found, the area is to be prepared for an on-site inspection, which should be carried out by a commission to explain the causes and circumstances of the disaster, appointed by the president of the State Mining Office. Independent proceedings are also conducted by the District Mining Office in Rybnik and the prosecutor’s office.
16 miners died in the methane explosion
The disaster in the Pniówek mine occurred on April 20, 2022 in the N-6 longwall about a thousand meters underground. A methane explosion occurred there at quarter past midnight. There were 42 workers in the danger zone, 39 people managed to withdraw. After 3 a.m. there was a second methane explosion. There were seven employees in the endangered area at the time, including a five-person rescue team. A day later, another methane explosion occurred. The rescue operation manager then decided to temporarily shut down the N-6 wall area using isolation dams. On May 2, the action was interrupted for many months.
Of the 10 injured miners who were taken to the Burn Treatment Center in Siemianowice Śląskie, five were in a serious condition. In the following days, five hospitalized people died. In total, 16 miners and mine rescuers lost their lives as a result of methane explosions, seven of whom were formally declared missing. 30 workers were injured. After the bodies of the five rescuers now found are transported to the surface, the bodies of the two missing ones will remain underground.
Main photo source: JSW/Dawid Lach