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Consol miner recovered from slurry impoundment

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The miner trapped in a bulldozer at the bottom of Consol Energy's Robinson Run coal slurry impoundment since Nov. 30 has been recovered, the company announced on Dec. 14.

"Today at 4:40 p.m., dive and rescue teams successfully completed a pipe dive recovery effort that enabled them to safely access the cab of the submerged bulldozer in Consol Energy's Nolan's Run slurry impoundment at its Robinson Run Preparation Plant," spokeswoman Lynn Seay wrote in an email update. "The diver was able to recover our employee from the cab of the bulldozer and bring him to the surface."

The company identified the miner as Markel J. Koon, 58, of Shinnston, a Consol employee for 37 years and 9 months.

Koon was operating a bulldozer to enlarge the foundation and raise the height of a dam at the impoundment on Nov. 30 when the section under construction collapsed and dragged him and two engineers into the slurry.

The two engineers were recovered but Koon was trapped in the bulldozer 20 feet down in sediment.

With the slurry too thick to dive in, recovery efforts turned after one week to the "pipe dive," in which a four-foot-diameter pipe was lowered over the bulldozer. Water jets at the bottom edge forced sediment away from the dozer, clearing the water for divers.

Attempts to cut the cab of the bulldozer were abandoned on Tuesday but restarted Friday midday.

Koon's body is being transported to the chief medical examiner's office in Charleston, where an autopsy will be conducted, as required by West Virginia code, Seay wrote.

"Our thoughts and prayers remain with the family during this difficult time," she added.

The company expressed its gratitude to the dive rescue teams that came to West Virginia from across the country, local emergency responders, and state and federal agencies that provided their expertise and support to develop, approve and execute the challenging recovery effort and to help bring closure to Koon's family.

Investigation into the cause of the accident by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, the West Virginia Department of Miners' Health, Safety and Training, the United Mine Workers of America, Consol and other parties began on Dec. 4 and is ongoing.