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Fire continues to burn at southeastern Utah coal mine

Posted at 6:06 PM, Sep 23, 2022

EMERY COUNTY, Utah — Smoke is still coming out of an underground mine in southeastern Utah from a fire that has been burning since Tuesday.

About 180 people work at the Lila Canyon coal mine, and authorities reported that all the miners were evacuated safely.

Information about how the fire began is limited, but FOX 13 News spoke to a mining engineering professor at the University of Utah about the fire and what we know so far.

Charles Kocsis, the chairman of the Mining Engineering Department, said instances like this help companies understand how such events can be prevented in the future. He also added that this kind of fire, far away from where people live, does not seem to pose a threat to lives.

“For the community around Lila Canyon, I would say that, you know, you have mom and dad working on the mine site, you have relatives, and there is anxiety within the community, and we understand this," Kocsis said. "But when you understand the phenomenon and you can control it, then you have the confidence that yes, you know we can control this."

READ: Burning Utah mine had been cited for possible fire hazards, records show

Kocsis added that he expects the mine to open up soon and resume operations, and since residential communities are farther away from the actual mine site, the smoke shouldn’t affect them either.

In certain mine fires, there is a chance for explosions or carbon monoxide poisoning for the people trapped in the mines. But since that is not the case here, Kocsis said it shouldn’t be a cause for concern — but it’s still important to stay vigilant.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration said in a statement that it is on-site and is working with the operators of the mine and the state government— "to assure that all actions taken by the mine operator are done in accordance with MSHA regulations, to ensure the safety and health of miners.”

FOX 13 News tried to get in touch with the owners of the mine to get more information about how the fire started and how their investigation is going, but they have not responded at the time of this report.