Following a mine disaster, representatives of the Company, United Mine Workers of America, West Virginia Department of Mines, and the United States Bureau of Mines make an underground investigation of the occurrence. After completion of the underground investigation, the West Virginia Department of Mines conducts an official hearing on the disaster and representatives of the aforementioned agencies interrogate the mine employees and officials, as well as other interested parties, for the purpose of getting facts and information concerning mine conditions, work habits and practices, and other matters that might have directly or indirectly led to or contributed to the disaster. At the conclusion of the hearing, a representative from each agency ordinarily makes a statement concerning the occurrence. Inasmuch as there is almost complete agreement among representatives of the four agencies as to the cause of this disaster, this joint statement has been prepared and will be released by all concerned.
On behalf of the four agencies, we would like to make a number of acknowledgments. First, we want to especially commend all the men who participated in the recovery operations. We thank all of the witnesses who offered testimony. Assistance and cooperation among all who participated in the recovery operations, the investigation, and the hearing were excellent. We also appreciate the cooperation and help given by sheriffs and police, volunteer workers who prepared food, and all others who assisted in any way.
Following the hearing here today, official reports on the disaster will be prepared and released to all interested parties by the West Virginia Department of Mines and the United States Bureau of Mines. These reports will include details concerning mine employment and operations, conclusions as to the cause of the occurrence, and recommendations to help prevent recurrence in this and other mines. The investigation is nearly complete and while it is possible that additional information will become available that might change our conclusions as to the cause of the explosion slightly, the investigation has been completed sufficiently for us to believe that this disaster occurred when an undetected body of explosive methane was ignited by arcs and sparks from a shuttle car. The methane was ignited while the section crew was moving the continuous miner and a shuttle car to the No. 4 room, 2 left mains, the first working face of their shift.
Three short rooms had been developed from 2 left mains to their projected limits on Friday, July 22, and the section crew on July 23 planned to remove these room pillars during their shift. On Saturday following the explosion and during the underground investigation, we found that methane was emitting from cracks and breaks in the mine floor in each of the three rooms, as well as at several other locations on the section. Methane was also being released from the roof falls caused by removal of coal pillars, and visible and audible evidence of continuing roof falls was apparent in the pillared areas immediately adjacent to the area where the explosion originated.
Prior to the explosion, sufficient ventilation was not provided in the three short rooms or on the section to remove methane being released, and it is believed that suitable gas examinations were not made in the explosion area immediately before the crew began moving the electric face equipment to the working face. Arcs and sparks from the defective electric face equipment ignited the methane.