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7th Hole Shows Mine Shaft Filled with Debris

7th Hole Shows Mine Shaft Filled with Debris

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Alex Cabrero and AP Reporting Crews finished drilling a seventh hole into the mountain where six miners have been trapped for 25 days -- but were met with disappointment.

Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration spokesman Rich Kulczewski says the mine shaft was filled with about 7 feet of debris, water and mud.

That deterred plans to drop a robotic camera down the 1,856-foot hole. The hole itself was also filling with mud at a rate of 5 feet-per hour.

Kulczewski says officials plan to drop the robot down hole number 4 tonight despite at 90 percent chance the high-tech camera on treads could be lost.

The families are obviously saddened by this news. Family spokesman Colin King said it is very discouraging, very disappointing news, but they are not giving up just yet.

According to family attorneys, there are no plans for digging future holes. They said the families are just hoping to learn more from the robot going down hole number four.

Meanwhile, MSHA announced its own investigation into their handling of the Utah mine disaster. The investigation will be led by Richard Gates, who was in charge of the review of the Sago mine tragedy in West Virginia, where 12 people died in January 2006.

Six miners have been trapped more than 1,500 feet below ground since Aug. 6. It is not known if they are dead or alive. Three rescuers trying to tunnel to the men died during another collapse Aug. 16.

MSHA chief Richard Stickler said the investigation at Crandall Canyon would involve people who have no ties to MSHA's Western district, which oversees safety at the mine, 120 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Hours after Stickler's announcement, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said an independent team of mine-safety experts will review MSHA's handling of the Crandall Canyon mine accident.

The team has a broad mandate, including a study of all mine plans and inspection records and interviews with MSHA employees.

The United Mine Workers of America, however, said the review would not be independent. The union, which does not represent Crandall Canyon miners, has been very critical of mine executives and MSHA.

"A truly independent investigation would be done by people who are from outside the agency with no ties to MSHA or its employees," President Cecil Roberts said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., whose House Education and Labor Committee will also investigate the mine tragedy, was skeptical about the leaders of Chao's panel. "Ultimately, we need an investigation that the families can have confidence in," he said.

In addition, MSHA has ruled that the United Mine Workers of America union cannot represent the families of the trapped miners in upcoming investigations into the disaster. MSHA says since the mine is a non-union operation, UMWA representatives have no place in the investigation.

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