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Utah Miners Situation Press Conference

Aired August 11, 2007 - 15:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta. You're looking at a live picture in Utah, where any moment now we expect the mine owner, Bob Murray, to be among those who will help conduct a press conference there updating reporters on the ground there about the ongoing efforts for the six trapped miners. Our Ed Lavandera, as well as Kara Finnstrom are there in Huntington, Utah. Let's go first Kara, the location where this press conference is to get underway. What's the expectation Kara?
KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're hoping to get some news about all this activity is at the mine. Earlier this morning when that press conference was scheduled, they told us they had to put it off indefinitely, simply telling us there was a lot of activity at the mine. What we know is that overnight, early this morning they were able to punch into that part of the cavern where they believe these six trapped miners are with a larger drill hole. They had to take some time to get that drill out, put down a sleeve and get a camera all the way down there, but this camera should be able to see through darkness. It's specially equipped, we don't know how well it will see, but it has these capabilities, and the hope is that it will be able to see something inside that cavern.

It can look about 100 feet in each direction. We're told estimates though that this cavern is 1,000 by 80 feet. That is a huge space, so it will be interesting to see if they have got that camera down there exactly what they're able to see.

The other piece of news that we really will be waiting for will be to hear whether they have any other ideas about the oxygen level in this part of the mine, the part where they actually believe these miners are, that earlier punch they drilled through with a smaller drill suggested only 7 percent oxygen levels, not far away. Also in an active part of the mine, but a reasonable distance. So the hope is that perhaps these oxygen levels vary, 7 percent oxygen, Fredricka, not enough to survive on.

WHITFIELD: So Kara, just I want to score something you just said, you're talking about how the drill was completed early this morning. Have there been any timetables revealed how long it might take them to get the sleeve in place, before actually trying to put the camera in place because most of today we've been able to report that was the plan to get the camera in place, but any idea how long it might have taken to get that under way?

FINNSTROM: We heard two to three hours is what we were initially told, to get that drill out, to get the sleeve in, and then to start lowering the camera. How long it actually takes to get the camera down there and get the pictures fed back, that wasn't clear, but certainly within that time frame now.

WHITFIELD: OK, Kara, thanks so much. We want to go to Eddy Lavandera, who is not far away, just a few blocks, so to speak away, which is where many of the family members have converged at a junior high school there. We saw the images of the vehicle, Bob Murray's vehicle moments ago, leaving there. Do we have any idea what he was able to tell those family members?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, he drove past here without saying anything. He made a left here and is driving up the mountain, probably still driving, hasn't reached that point yet. We've been looking for any signs of family members trying to read some body language, quite frankly. There's been very little opportunity to do so, just a few people kind of hanging out outside the school, so it's been hard to gauge what the situation is in there, or what might have been said, but we suspect it might have been obviously what they're probably anxious to learn a lot about is the status of the video camera being dropped into the hole and of course the oxygen levels which would be crucial to keeping these miners alive. I guess the expectation and hope is they were able to get some sort of information based on that. We of course have to wait for Bob Murray to continue driving up the mountain.

WHITFIELD: Right, in fact Ed while we've been talking, we see now a clear view of Mr. Murray, who has arrived at that location, who just momentarily ago -- moments ago stepped out of that trailer. He's now sitting down and just acknowledging someone who appears to be asking him some questions, or at least talking to him. I really hate to say it, but we want to underscore a very long-faced Bob Murray, it seems, as we wait for him to step up to the mike. Let's try to listen in right now, see if the mike can pick it up.

Well, that was a long shot, trying to pick up any audio from him. Momentarily we will be hearing from him presumably, Ed, maybe even someone else, we haven't gotten look a roster of who might be speaking, but presumably since he's been leading so many of the press conferences as of late, we will be hearing from him.

Now, Ed, the location where you are, every now and then someone will stop their vehicle, meaning a family member will stop to talk to you and others to give you an idea of exactly what they're hearing from officials. Since Bob Murray has departed, has anyone -- any of the family members come out of the school, if not to stop and talk, at least to drive away?

LAVANDERA: There have been a few cars that have come by and driven away. No one has stopped to talk. A couple people did that after the initial morning meeting, and the outlook and tone of voice was very much grim. An uncle of Louis Hernandez, one of the trapped miners said that they were starting to lose a lot of hope in the situation, but to also fill you in a what you expect to hear shortly up at the mountain, are the people you'll be hearing from is Richard Stickler, who is with the Mine Safety and Health Administration, he has been one of the key people doing the briefings this afternoon. He might be probably the first person you hear from. Also there's Rob Moore, one of the vice presidents of Bob Murray's Energy Company here. He's also been doing that, and actually Bob Murray has been one of the last people to speak at these briefings. If that holds true, that might be the order of what's anticipated here in the coming moments, but some cars have been coming and going, back to your original question.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ed thanks so much. I think now this is Richard Stickler, head of the Mine Health and Safety Administration approaching the microphone. Let's listen in.

RICHARD STICKLER, ASST. SECRETARY OF LABOR, MSHA: Good afternoon. We've had two family meetings to update the families since we gave you the last update. The reason for that was that we had some important information that was happening very quickly, and we felt that it was important to communicate that to the family as soon as possible, and I apologize for delaying the briefing for the press for that reason.

To update you on the events that have occurred since the last meeting I had with you, at 11:00 p.m. yesterday evening, we started pumping compressed air down the 2 1/2-inch boar hole into the mine. Also the clean up in the under ground number 1 entry that we have advanced toward the area where the miners are located as advanced to cross-cut 124, this is approximately 520 feet from cross cut 120 where we started and have set up the loading point for this operation.

We are concerned that this is not progressing as fast as we would like for it to, but the conditions are very difficult, the heavy roof support, the vertical timbers, the steel props, and the chain-link fence that we're placing along the walls of the mine entry or tunnel in order to protect the rescue workers is a very slow, difficult process. But we are pushing that forward as fast as we possibly can to reach the miners as soon as possible, but also to ensure the safety of the rescue workers.

At approximately 3:00 a.m. this morning, the 8 5/8-inch diameter drill hole drilled into the mine. We left the drill steel down below the mine roof. We tried to signal to the miners by pounding on the drill steel. We would listen, but unfortunately we did not get any response from the miners underground by trying to signal on the drill steel.

After that, we started withdrawing the drill steel out of the 8 5/8 hole. That was completed at 7:109 a.m. Shortly after that, we started dropping the camera down to get an image of the interior of the bore hole and the opening or the mine tunnel below. This bore hole came in very close, within two feet underground where we had projected it to go into the mine. What we found as we dropped the camera down below the roofline, we could identify the roofline, because we could see the wire mesh that had been bolted to the roof for roof support. From that distance down, for 5 1/2 feet there is a void. And that's good. From the 5 1/2-foot void down there's approximately two feet of broken coal or rubble on the mine floor, mixed with some water.

I failed to mention to you, when we drilled the hole, we also drilled past the void, past the two feet of water and into the mine floor. That gave us determination of where the mine floor was. We had difficulty with the horizontal images, because this is a raw bore hole with approximately ten gallons a minute flowing through the strata and down the bore hole and the material caused the image on the horizontal camera to not be clear. But the vertical image was very clear and we learned quite a bit from them.

Our intention is to and we have already withdrawn the camera from this bore hole, and we started installing a casing or a liner to line the bore hole that will provide protection from the camera when it goes down. After we get the casing from the surface down to the roofline or the ceiling in the mine entry, then we plan to drop the camera back into the boar hole after we have cleaned the horizontal lens. The horizontal lens will give us the opportunity to look out into the mine tunnels and be able to see and determine more about the conditions there at the bottom of that boar hole.

The good news is we have a 5 1/2-foot void hole in the mine, that is an opening, it's the same opening that was mined when the tunnel was driven by the mining operation, so we have not lost the space where miners could be located, 59 1/2 feet, and these conditions are better than the conditions that we see where we're doing the cleanup and rehabilitation of number one entry.

So somewhere between where we're located as cross-cut 124 with the rehabilitation and cleanup work, where the rubble and the mine floor, is approximately five, six feet high, extending in approximately 2,000 feet to the bottom of the bore hole, where the rubble is only two feet high, so there's conditions where differences from where we're currently working, and the conditions by the video camera show they're better at the bottom of the bore hole than where we're currently doing the cleanup work. At this point I'm going to -- I don't know if Rob is here.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): So, sir, in a nut shell, is you found survivable space?

STICKLER: Yes, we found survivable space. Do you want to make in the comments? Let's hold the questions until we give you as much the factual information as possible, that way maybe you'll have answers to your questions.

BOB MOORE, VICE PRES., MURRAY ENERGY GROUP: I think Mr. Stick her has done a fine job of explaining to you where we're at right now. I don't have anything to add to that. We do have our expert who was up on the drill site, available here to answer questions. I don't have anything to add at this time.


STICKLER: The roofline has not collapsed. Even in the area where we're doing the cleanup work, we do not see any caves or collapse of the roof itself. The material that is filling the mine entry or mine tunnel is material that was forced off of the walls because of the pressure and the weight of the strata bearing down, crushing those pillars and causing the broken material to fill the void or the mine entry.

(UNIDENTIFED FEMALE) You think the collapse occurred somewhere between the rescuers are underground and somewhere between where you're drilled? STICLER: I don't know that anyone has told you a collapse has occurred anywhere. What we have explained to you is the mine tunnel -- the roof has not collapsed. The walls of that tunnel have been pushed off.

(UNIDENTIFED FEMALE) Did that occur between where the rescuers are and where the drill is?

STICKLER: We see it at the rescue area where we're clean up this material, that's what is blocking the tunnel, is the material that came off of the ribs. So we see it there, and it is anywhere from six to six 1/2 feet high, some areas it's very close to the ceiling. We tried to explore yesterday afternoon with two individuals to get up on top of the rubble in the area where we're doing the cleanup work to explore to see if there was a possibility that we could get advanced, and we found we could get to one about 126 cross-cuts, which is only about two cross-cuts in by where we're farther in the mine than where we're currently working. That will be roughly 260 feet. They could not advance beyond the 260 feet.


STICKLER: They were crawling. Well, I reported 520 feet. We have good oxygen, 21 percent, that the rescue area where the crew is working, but as we reported to you earlier, the oxygen where the first bore hole went in, the 2 1/2-inch bore whole, we took several readings that averaged around 7.5 percent oxygen.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): (INAUDUBLE) your theory though that different oxygen in different areas.

STICKLER: Well absolutely, if you have 21 percent here and 2,000 feet away you have 7.5 percent, you have a variation in between those two points.

(UNIDENTIFED FEMALE) Mr. Stickler, have you taken any readings in the new hole? And is that planned?

STICKLER: We have-one we started pumping compressed air in the 2 1/2 inch hole that is what we were using to get our air analysis samples. We have not taken any, we felt that we had been sampling that continuously for an extended period of time, the samples were consistent and there was nothing to be gained. We thought it more advantageous to use that hole for the pumps in the compressed air.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Does that mean you're raising the oxygen level in there now?

STICKLER: Absolutely. The air you're pumping in is 21 percent oxygen.


STICKLER: It will increase the oxygen in that area.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): At what rate are you pumping the oxygen in? STICKLER: I don't have that specific number.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): To clarify you're pumping oxygen in a 2 1/2-inch hole, but it doesn't make sense --

STICKLER: Well I didn't say that. What we've done at this point is to use the 1/8 and 5/8 inch hole to our best advantage. The number one advantage we felt was to get the video camera down, and at this point, we believe the next step is to install the steel liner, the casing from the surface down to the mine roof, and thirdly we will then reinstall the camera after we have cleaned the lens and the camera will be protected from the water and the other material in that bore hole, so that once it arrives at the mine void, we'll be able to see a much better picture in the horizontal direction.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Have you explained to the families, the new hole, aside from the 5 1/2 foot to the roof?

STICKLER: Repeat that, please.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): (INAUDIBLE) dimensions in the new hole, how large a space is it?

STICKLER: We could not see very far with the vertical lens. We couldn't see on you very far, so I can't say what that is. That's the purpose of dropping the camera back in after we've cleaned the horizontal lens is we'll be able to get a better picture in a horizontal direction.


STICKLER: Approximately 100 feet, depending on if there's anything in the way.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): How are the families reacting to all these technicalities?

STICKLER: The families have been remarkably strong. We've prayed with them, we've cried with them, but in the end, you know, we haven't been able to give them a lot of positive information, you know, the information on the air analysis was very disappointing to us, but the families have pulled together. There's approximately 50 family members that joined for the briefings, various relatives. They're very supportive. MSHA has around the clock family liaisons that we have trained by the National Safety Transportation Board and the American Red Cross has trained these individuals. We have pastors there with the families. We're doing everything we can to be responsive to them and support them in any way we can.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Have you shown the families the tape?

STICKLER: The families have seen the tape.

(UNIDENTIFED FEMALE): What was their reaction?

STICKLER: The tape shows just what I explained to you. (UNIDENTIFIED MALE): And their reaction to the tape?

STICKLER: I think, compared to the air analysis, the fact that we've seen the 5 1/2-foot void is somewhat encouraging, but certainly, you know, the families are under a lot of stress and concern. It's been a long, drawn-out process, but they are supporting each other, and we're doing everything we can to support them, and I think they are remarkably strong and they've been very supportive of us also. And we appreciate that.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Are you sending the camera (INAUDIBLE)?

STICKLER: When are you taking it back down? As soon as we get the bore hole casing put in from the surface down to the roofline. That will be done as soon as we can get it done.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Any idea how long?

STICKLER: No, I see no advantage to giving you time frames. We'll do it as soon as we can. That's all that really counts is we're doing it as soon as possible.

(UNIDENTIFED MALE) Can we ask this gentleman here a question or two?


(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Sir, can you tell us your name, first?

MIKE BLAKE: Mike Blake.

(UNIDENTIFED FEMALE): Moving ahead a little bit, once you get this camera down, if you see very little, you've already heard absolutely nothing. If you have no signs of life from these drill holes, what's next? Do you just continue on the horizontal path? Do you drill additional holes elsewhere?

STICKLER: Certainly the number one priority at this time is focused on advancing the cleanup, the rehabilitation work in number one entry. We believe that is our best opportunity to reach the miners as soon as possible. We're looking at other alternatives. We considered a larger hole that you can use a capsule in. We have not ruled that out, but to get a drill rig in the mountain, it's going to take a bigger drill rig, and could take 19 to 20 days if things go good, because we're so deep here, 1,868 feet deep.

At Quecreek it took us 77 hours and we were only 300 feet deep, we were in flat pasture line, it was a dairy farm right along a paved highway. We had so many things going in our advantage, where here you're working on a very steep mountainside. It was a tremendous challenge to get a road in, 8,000 feet of road to get the drills in, so, you know, these are things we're all weighing and we're considering.

We're also looking at possible bore holes for the 8 5/8 machine that we have on the mountain too. We have a team currently looking at that to see what value or what would be gained, and we are doing that analysis as I speak today.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Will oxygen testing take place in the new hole?

STICKLER: Yeah, after we finish these other phases of what I've defined to the use of that 8 5/8-inch hole, we can take some air analysis, but basically we knew where we were, what we would be able to learn from that is how we've changed the atmosphere with the amount of air that we're pumping in. The problem with that is there's only about 130 feet between the locations of these two holes. So that in itself wouldn't be significant information.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Have you had a chance to do any (INAUDIBLE)

STICKLER: Well, we're cleaning, as we clean number one, the ventilation controls between number 1 and 2 have been destroyed. The rubble is in number 2, number 3, and number 4. We've cleaned the cross-cuts as we advance the number 1 entry. We clean a little area out in the tunnel between number 1 and number 2, so that we can switch equipment, but there's no man doors there to look through, because those ventilation controls were taken out whenever the initial seismic activity happened and the bump, have created air pressure force, which took the ventilation controls, destroyed them, from the face area out to about 95 cross-cuts.

Remember, we explained to you how initially we had to reinstall those ventilation controls from where we're working out to get the fresh air workers at that time. With that, I'm not going to take any more questions. If you have questions for the drill experts, who has been on the mountain continuously since this process started, and I see Mr. Murray wants to make a comment.

BOB MURRAY, PRES. & CEO, MURRAY ENERGY: I'd like to give you an overview of the situation to where we are right now. To more or less summarize the status of this rescue effort. Let's first talk about the families. It's remarkable and wonderful how they're holding up. Our meetings have been very, very good. They particular have been good since I requested the son of one of the trapped miners and the brother of another trapped miner to go underground with me daily and actually conduct the meetings, they have done a much better job than I could do. We've been there to answer questions.

The people have been cared for well. Their spirits are well. It's very, very good. As you can imagine, as the days go on, their grief heightens, but they're holding up very, very well, and we're maintaining their privacy, which they appreciate and we're keeping them informed. We actually met and some of you know, I was out here all night, and we met with the family twice since then, because we had a commitment, and I told you then at that time that until we told the family the status of everything we could not tell you.

So the families, that portion of the rescue effort is going exceptionally well. The rescue effort itself, I'm very disappointed at our pace. We've made no mistakes. The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, Murray Energy Corporation, and Utah American have worked hand in glove throughout the whole time. We're on our plans. The plans have been worked out together, and we literally have had no mistakes. What we are dealing with is nature, where the seismic forces have not yet settled down and so our progress underground has been much slower than I like.

I spent considerable time in there yesterday, if you consider the 19 cross-cut as our starting point. We've gone 650 feet on the way to 2,000 feet where we know the miners are. While I was in! Contact with a buried piece of equipment that the men use at the face. It was a cable tub, a sled on which we carry the cable. Usually our crews have that sled within 300 to 500 feet of the tail piece where the coal is dumped from the shuttle car to the belt and where the power center is generally located. That means we're getting close to the crews, when we start encounters machineries that is in there. Where I was, there's 69,000 cubic feet of air per minute blowing. It's cold, it's windy. Now how much of that air is getting to the faces where the men are, it is impossible to determine. But it's good 20 percent oxygen, no methane air.

The borehole I will get to now, with one other report on the two and a half-inch hole that we drilled some days ago. We are pumping oxygen down that hole just as a precautionary measure, and putting that hole to work.

You will recall that we initially gave you a reading of 20 percent oxygen and no methane in that hole, but we think that reading was contaminated with some of the air in the hole itself, because it came back later that we only had 0.9 percent oxygen, which will not sustain life.

But that is somewhere between the 69,000 cubic feet per minute and the 0.9 -- or nine percent oxygen. So it's impossible to tell. The one good thing about the bore hole that went down, and I was here when it intercepted the coal seam at between 2:00 and 3:00 this morning, there is a void of five feet in the coal seam, and there's two feet of water there. That water is potable, and would sustain life indefinitely. And if that air is good at that location, which we'll soon know, then we remain very optimistic.

I want to emphasize to you that this is a rescue effort, and I am extremely optimistic that we are doing everything that we can and that we will get to those miners as quickly as humanly possible. The drilling has gone well. It came down very close to where we wanted it to, considering we drilled from very steep terrain. The underground mining is not going as well as we would like, not because of a lack of manpower, 139. Not because of a lack of machinery, there is none, but because the mountain itself, the tectonic forces in the mountain continually cause us some concern, and we must look after the welfare, as Mr. Stickler would be the first to tell you, we must look out for the welfare of the rescuers first.

At this time I'd like to tell you that all week -- and I've never told you this -- there have been five engineers of Murray Energy Corporation and Utah American Energy Inc. up on the mountain, where the drilling has been taking place led by our chief engineer, David Hibbs (ph). David Canning (ph) has been there, an older man that is one of the best engineers in the country, J. Marshall (ph), and others, and including Mike Glasson. Mike Glasson is a degreed geologist, originally from New York City, very competent in what he does, and he will be able to give you a better report than anyone can, because he's camped on that mountain for five days now on the drilling of both holes and what we have right now.

One question you'll probably have at the end is -- and you've already asked, did we show the tapes of going down to the holes to the families? And we did. Will we about showing that to you? No, it takes an extensive period of time. What we really want to do is show you the results of the camera when we get down there. That is estimated to be perhaps between 8:00 and 9:00 tonight.

So with that, I'm going to turn the meeting over to Mike, and on that basis, I'm going to suggest we not have our 6:30 regular meeting, but that we will notify you, as we have before, to come out for a briefing whenever we're ready and have news to give you.

Mr. Mike Glasson.

MIKE GLASSON, GEOLOGIST, UTAH DIVISION OF OIL, GAS & MINING: G-L-A-S- S-O-N. G-L-A-S-S-O-N. Like Nancy. Basically what we have done so far this week up on the mountain is, and I don't have an awful lot to add to the two gentlemen before me about exactly what we have done, but in a nutshell we've done a lot of road building in very steep terrain, with experienced mountain construction crews.

We have accessed the carefully surveyed out locations for these boreholes. We initially started out the small borehole with a helicopter-assisted drill rig for the simple reason we could get it onto the location quicker than building the roads in. So that hole began first and was actually completed first. It also encountered a five and half-foot void when we -- when the drill rig goes down to the location where we carefully estimate the location of the coal seam to be, we watch very carefully as the drill penetrates that area, and typically what will happen is the drill steel, once it has gone through the roof of the mine will simply drop easily down as far as it can go before it encounters the floor of the mine. And in the case of the first drill hole, the two and a half-inch drill, it dropped five and half feet before it came to recent on the floor.

In the meantime, we had gotten started with a larger borehole, the intention, of course, was to use the larger borehole for materials and supplies down to the coal miners. We have run the camera so far once, and ran into a difficulty with the horizontal lens getting dirty. However, we are now currently in the process of installing steel casing, a seven inch steel casing, the entire length of the hole from the surface down to the roof of the coal mine, which we have observed from the first camera shot. In other words, the first time we ran the camera down the hole, our only view was out the bottom of the camera, which was basically in the shape of a cylinder.

Out you the bottom of the camera, as we approach the coal horizon, we could see that we were encountering a void. We could also see that we had encountered a section of meshed screen, which is used in the roof of the coal mine for roof support, and it was obvious to us, of course, at that time we were in the mine. And then the procedure is to simply gradually let the camera go down as far as it can go until it encountered the floor and in this case also measured a five and a half foot distance. When we completed drilling the hole, we know we drilled through approximately two feet of rubble, if you want, in the floor of the mine, making the overall height that we encountered in this area seven and a half feet. Which we would have expected based upon or previous mining in this area.

In the floor of the mine, there's a mixture of rubble and water, which, as Mr. Murray said, is very good water in the Crandall Mine, it always has been. So next is to get the steel casing to the bottom. It is going to take several hours to do. The hole, as witnessed by the camera shot has various washed-out areas, which is very typical in a drill hole. So it's actually to our advantage to have pictures of these areas, to know where to be careful with the casing.

We lower the casing down to the roof, at which time we can lower the camera for the second time and key it clean, and get a horizontal view once we break through the roof of the mine. So that's currently the plan, and I'm going to head back up on the mountain here in a minute.

QUESTION: Let me ask you one quick question. Once you all did break through the coal seam, we understand that the first thing you all did was bang on that drill steel to try and see if you heard anything (inaudible). Can you describe that to us? How long did you bang? Did everyone say, quiet, quiet, what did you hear?

GLASSON: Actually it was a very specific laid-out plan that we had. For example in the first bore hole we had a very sensitive microphone that was dropped down to the bottom of the bore hole, and we proceeded to make noises on the pipe -- there's a very specific -- and I'm not sure whether or not this has been described to you yet or not, but the technique for signaling to coal miners who may be trapped is to rap three times, send a signal to them, which is a series of three blows, which on metal through rock is usually easily heard.

And then we hope to hear a response which coal miners are trained to respond with rapping on as loudly as they can, anything metallic, for example, a roof bolt in the mine, which is very accessible. And we would then be able to then hear that. We would then respond with a series of five additional blows to the steel pipe, which would indicate to the trapped miners that we know -- that we heard them. If I said that right.

QUESTION: Striking with what?

GLASSON: Just a hammer or wrench. Whatever's - yeah something like that ...

QUESTION: How would you hear that, if they responded?

GLASSON: As I said, if you are standing next to a drill hole, which is -- has a drill steel from the top to the bottom, and if a loud rap is made onto the top of the drill steel, it's easily heard, from, say, 2,000 feet away or farther.

QUESTION: What I imagine is the disappointment after you bang and don't hear response?

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

GLASSON: Well, repeatedly.

QUESTION: How many times did you do that? Or for how long a period?

GLASSON: Well, we repeated it quite a few times, and to be perfectly honest with you, I don't remember how many times. However -- and I want to also answer another part of your question, which was about being quiet.

When we do this test, when we do this type of communication, it's essential that it's very quiet. So when we do this test, we shut down the drill rig, we shut down the compressors, we shut down the light plants, we carry out these tests in total darkness, if it is nighttime, and -- in an effort to make sure that if a noise can be heard that it's not droned out by some compressor engine or something like that.

QUESTION: Tell us what it's like anticipating the response there?

GLASSON: And to our tests at this time, we have had no response.

QUESTION: But you were waiting. You must have been very hopeful.

GLASSON: Of course we were hopeful. That was the first test we did when we got to the bottom of the first hole, and of course we were very hopeful, and frankly disappointed that we did not have a response. But we'll continue to do this, you know, on these drill holes and continue to hope for responses.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) anything metallic. Do they try responding to you by either screaming or hitting rocks or something?

GLASSON: Well, it's difficult to answer that question, really specifically. We believe that if a coal miner and these men and sometimes women are trained in these things to find anything that they can find, whether it's a piece of rock or -- I mean, they don't always carry hammers around with them, of course, but whatever they can find, and whatever piece of metal they can find in the mine is characteristically used and they are trained in their thought processes to use these things to signal.

MURRAY: Ladies and gentlemen, I must call the press conference to an end. I've not done this before, but we are in the middle of some meetings with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, and some decisions that are quite important to the miners that are trapped underground and their families. Thank you for your interest and thanks for everyone in America.

QUESTION: Will there be a 6:00 meeting ...

MURRAY: There will not be, sir. We will call the briefing when he have something better to tell you. I don't want you to stand out here, as you did all morning. Thank you very much, folks. FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. This out of Huntington, Utah. You heard from various officials from the owner of the mine, also from the Mine Health and Safety Administration, there is some concern this is not progressing as they hoped, but at the same time you heard from Bob Murray who said mostly in part because of the mountain itself is causing some concern, and you also heard about the kind of communications that they will try to continue there, any kind of tapping on the holes there, that if those six trapped miners happen to be alive, perhaps they would respond by those kinds of signals they would also have rapped on any of the holes there.

It is still a rescue effort, and they will do everything they can to try to get to those miners as soon as possible. Those are the words of Mr. Murray.

Our Kara Finnstrom is there as well as our Eddy Lavandera. Let's go to Cara first who is at that location where the press conference has been underway. And an interesting explanation of the lowering of the camera and how there were limitations, they will try it again to lower the camera later on this evening, Kara?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes it sounds like they lowered the camera without putting the casing in first., which we initially had thought they might do. They thought this might be more effective to get this camera down first though what happened was the camera lens got dirty, so as they were explaining, they could really only see out of the lens -- the vertical lens which is on the bottom of the camera. They couldn't see out the side so they couldn't see down in the tunnel.

What they were able to ascertain by seeing that bottom there is that there is a 5 1/2-foot void in there, an area where if these miners did survive, if they have enough oxygen they could be. They also were able to tell that the roof didn't collapse, that the roofline is still there, that what actually happened is some of these materials, the rock and debris actually came off the walls of this cavern. So that was also interesting to learn.

Still no word though yet on the oxygen level in that area. Earlier tests had suggested seven percent. Mr. Murray today said nine percent, but both those percentages too low to survive in. That was taken at the first bore hole. That's about 130 feet, we're now told from where they actually now have this camera that ran down, they do say they will be running some other oxygen levels, but they've been pumping in some compressed air, so it will be difficult maybe to ascertain what the oxygen level has been up to now in this area.

And Fredricka, the other interesting thing that came out of this that you touched on there is the tapping on this drill that went down. These miners have been trained to respond to that, and there was really hope if they did this series of taps, that the miners inside could grab any kind of metal, rocks, and type of metal that they had with them and respond, and they had no response.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, they haven't heard anything, no response, but as you mentioned, because that roofline is there, the message is that perhaps the conditions are survivable or at least a space is survivable, but it is important to note, not knowing what the oxygen level is there, it might be reaching a little bit to be able to say these are survivable conditions, Kara.

FINNSTROM: Right. That's going to be a key piece of information that we're waiting for. But again, because they have been pumping that compressed oxygen in through this other hole, we may not be able to tell what that oxygen level was at before they started doing that.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kara Finnstrom, thanks so much.

We're going to stand down for a moment, take a short break and be are be right back.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back. It is still a rescue effort, and they will two everything they can to try to reach those six trapped miners, those are the words from the owner of the mine, Bob Murray, who also impressed that the family members have been showing remarkable strength. He briefed them along the way well before he briefed reporters at that live press conference. Our Ed Lavandera is at the location where a lot of those families have been all day, in fact, over the course of a few days getting one on one updates from the likes of Bob Murray. Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they have been down here twice this morning. Many of the family members have really left the school here, a couple of them hanging around here as well. But many have been leaving and coming as soon as they've been told there might be an update.

And a little bit of frustration from one of the relatives, the son of Don Erickson who is one of the trapped miners. We were just getting this tape in and as he was leaving, he told some reporters that were waiting for some kind of comment that families were feeling frustrated, these constant updates really providing no information, which I think a lot of people inside, it sounds like, they come back, and they're told piecemeal about exactly what's being done, but at the same time there's no definitive answers to whether or not their loved ones are ultimately alive or if they are dead, and that frustration and that agonizing wait apparently starting to take its toll on some of these family members, Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: And it's tough, because while we hear the developments coming from these officials that they have indeed bored a second hole, and in the second hole they want to put a steel pipe so they can better descend this camera to get a better image, even that may not take place until 8:00 or 9:00 this evening, because while earlier they did put that camera in the hole, it got very dirty, so they weren't able to see anything, so they're going to have to do it again. And that's after this steel piece is reinserted, so its painstaking, of course for the family members, but you can see it in the frustration from even Bob Murray and others, with the Mine Health and Safety Administration, that this is going to take a long time to get underway before they can really get some firm indications of how these six trapped miners are doing.

LAVANDERA: Right. And we've heard that from Bob Murray actually for several days now, that he wasn't happy with the progression that all of this is taking, in trapped miners, and ultimately what these families -- they might be getting the updates about exactly what is being done moment by moment, but ultimately what these people are looking for is at the end of the day, they really don't care about all of that. What they care about is the answer to one question, and that's whether or not their loved ones are alive or if they are dead.

WHITFIELD: Right. I think that disappointment is universal, Bob Murray expressed it, and he also said those family members have obviously expressed their disappointment it is taking so long. Ed, thank so much. We'll get back to you in a moment. Meantime let's go to Josh Levs here in the NEWSROOM who has been monitoring the real science behind the kind of holes that are being bored and why. Josh, what do you have?

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been an emotional roller coaster today, hasn't it Fred? They give you enough to keep your hopes going, great, but at the same time there's some bad news buried in there as well.

Let's piece through -- I just want to help everyone understand what we have just heard. Because it's a lot of terms and it gets confusing. We had a very helpful prop today. That's this. This is the size of the hole that was bored into the mine today in order to get through to where it's believe that these miners are. This was the size they needed to get this big camera through. Now why this camera? Previously they had bored a much smaller hole. They needed this larger camera in to have the visibility that they wanted to have. So you have a camera going down vertically. Then all of a sudden it guess gets to a space with a mesh ceiling, which is how these mining operations work, OK, and beneath that mesh ceiling, you have got five and half feet of a void, of space, which height wise they are saying is enough that conditions could mean someone could survive it. Five and a half foot void.

At the bottom of that void, you have got about two feet of coal mixed with water. Something we heard towards the end of that conference, very important, that water is potable. So let's look at the good news we've got so far, survivable space according to officials in that sense. So there's enough room and potable waters. Humans can live without food for much longer than we can live without water.

Potable means drinkable, a very good thing. The biggest problem, Fred, and you touched on this just now, you have to put a major caveat on the word "survivable" unfortunately because what we don't know is whether there's enough oxygen to survive. And there's a lot of numbers thrown around, you hear different numbers. Where the rescuers are working, you hear higher numbers of oxygen. Where these guys are actually believed to be, we're not sure what the oxygen level is.

There have been some questions from that. It might not be survivable at this point, it might be. So they're using that hole that I was just showing you there to pump in some oxygen. Also they're putting the camera back down now to have the horizontal view.

So once it gets down there, this time it could only tell that five and a half vertical space, what they need to do is have horizontal views, so that when a camera goes back down, they can really look out, hopefully hundreds of feet away from the space. Because it's a big space. They want to see if they can find any signs of the miners that way. As we ahead, they did a sound test just now, kind of banging waiting for any sound response, got none, but that doesn't automatically mean anything. That's where it is, Fred. They're waiting to clean off the horizontal lenses of the camera, get the camera all the way back down that space, hopefully look horizontally within there and see if there are any signs of the miners.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, Josh. And all of this is interesting to the family members of these six trapped miners, but it's not exactly the kind of information that they were hoping to hear, not at this press conference or in any of their one on oen briefings.

Earlier we got a chance to talk to one of the relatives of the trapped miners whose name is Don Erickson. Here's what that relative had to say.


TERRY ERICKSON, TRAPPER MINER'S BROTHER: We don't know anything. Just what you're hearing.

QUESTION: What exactly?

ERICKSON: Just the same stuff that's on TV. Same stuff over and over?

QUESTION: What did Bob Murray had to say?

ERICKSON: Same stuff. I'm getting tired of hearing it.


WHITFIELD: And that's Terry, who is the brother of Don Erickson, one of the six. Here's a list of the other five who are trapped. Carlson Peyan, said to be in his 20s, 57 year old Kerry Allred, a father of three, 41 year old Manuel Sanchez, Brandon Phillips who is 24 and 23- year old Louis Alonso Hernandez. He has a one-year-old daughter.

Frustrating for these family members who were hoping to hear a little bit more, particularly in their one-on-one briefings with Bob Murray and the others, but instead they're hearing Bob Murray and members of the Mine Health and Safety Administration saying it is a painstaking process, it's going much slower than they expected. Much more when we come right back.