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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department said Friday it could cost millions of dollars and take months to respond to a House committee's subpoena looking at the agency's oversight of the Crandall Canyon mine in central Utah.
Acting Labor Solicitor Jonathan Snare said nearly 15,000 documents already had been turned over to the House Education and Labor Committee before chairman George Miller, D-Calif., issued a subpoena in August.
Miller's committee asked for extensive records related to the department's oversight of the Crandall Canyon mine, including internal communications with the mine operators.
"Broad electronic searches of archived electronic data, as contemplated by the committee's letters (and required by the subpoena) could cost millions of dollars and require weeks or months to complete even by contracting with a vendor," Snare said in a Friday letter to the committee.
Searching through their e-mails for Crandall Canyon mine-related material could cost $3.5 million alone and take 20 weeks, Labor officials said.
Snare offered to meet with committee members to go over the scope of the request. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao has until 5 p.m. Tuesday to produce the records.
Nine people died in two cave-ins at the mine. Six miners trapped on Aug. 6 are presumed dead and remain entombed more than 1,500 feet below ground. Three rescuers, including a government mine safety inspector, were killed in a second collapse on Aug. 16 while trying to tunnel to the men.
The accident came a year after several high-profile coal mine disasters spurred a flurry of new mine-safety laws. It has raised questions about the performance of the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)