Labor Dept. Balks at Cost of Mine Probe

By Jesse J. Holland
Associated Press
Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Labor Department said Friday that it could cost millions of dollars and take months to respond to a House committee's subpoena looking at the agency's oversight of the Crandall Canyon mine in Utah, site of a fatal accident in August.

Jonathan Snare, the department's acting solicitor, said nearly 15,000 documents already had been turned over to the House Education and Labor Committee before Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) issued a subpoena in September.

Miller's committee asked for extensive records related to the department's oversight of the Crandall Canyon mine, including internal communications. That committee on Wednesday heard from the miners' relatives, who told lawmakers they blame the government and mine owners for the fatal cave-in.

"Broad electronic searches of archived electronic data, as contemplated by the committee's letters (and required by the subpoena) could cost millions of dollars and require weeks or months to complete even by contracting with a vendor," Snare said Friday in a letter to the committee.

Just searching through their e-mails for material related to the Crandall Canyon mine could cost $3.5 million and take 20 weeks, Labor officials said.

Snare offered to meet with committee members to go over the scope of the request. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao has until 5 p.m. Tuesday to produce the records.

Nine people died in two cave-ins at the mine. Six miners trapped on Aug. 6 remain entombed more than 1,500 feet below ground. Three rescuers, including a government mine-safety inspector, were killed in a second collapse on Aug. 16 while trying to tunnel to the men.

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