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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The U.S. Labor Department denied a newspaper's request to attend interviews during the government's investigation of the Crandall Canyon mine disaster.
"Reporters do not sit in crime labs or prosecutors' offices, so why would the attorneys for The Salt Lake Tribune think this case is any different as an ongoing investigation?" said David Jones, a Labor Department spokesman.
The Tribune pointed to a court ruling following the 1984 Wilberg mine disaster, in which a federal judge said that investigation should be open to the public. An appeals court vacated the ruling but transcripts were released.
Six miners are presumed dead after the Aug. 6 collapse at the Crandall Canyon mine in central Utah, although their bodies have not been recovered. Three people trying to tunnel toward them were killed 10 days later.
"This was a public disaster. It's important to understand how it happened, why it happened, so it doesn't happen again," Tribune editor Nancy Conway said Wednesday.
Public access to the investigation could influence testimony and intimidate witnesses, said Jonathan Snare, a senior attorney at the Labor Department.
Snare also rejected a request by the Utah Mine Safety Commission to participate in the investigation by the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
In a letter to commission Chairman Scott Matheson Jr., he said access could "compromise the integrity of the investigation and potentially jeopardize MSHA's ability to enforce the law."
Gov. Jon Huntsman said he is not happy with the decision to keep the documents from Utah's Mine Safety Commission.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)