CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A major Consol Energy operation in northern West Virginia has been evacuated, and state mine safety officials are investigating reports of black smoke coming from one of the mine's airshafts.
State officials said they believed all employees at the operation had made it out of the mine, but a 4 p.m. statement from Consol said the evacuation "is underway."
"We've got smoke coming out of a return airshaft," said Eugene White, director of the state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training.
The situation was reported to state officials shortly after 3 p.m.
White said state inspectors and the coordinator of the state's mine rescue operation were in route to the mine, located along the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border northwest of Morgantown.
White said his agency had unconfirmed reports that one of Consol's specially trained fire brigades may have gone underground to investigate the source of the smoke.
"I was told that, but I don't know for sure," White said.
Mike Caputo, a United Mine Workers representative from the region, said it would be normal procedure for trained mine rescue personnel to investigate.
"That's not unusual," Caputo said. "You've got to find out where the smoke is coming from."
The Blacksville mine is a large underground operation that employs more than 500 workers and produced more than 3.2 million tons of coal last year, according to federal data.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.