The co-owner of a Utah coal mine where six workers have been buried since an Aug. 6 collapse said on Wednesday that finding life there was "virtually, totally unlikely" and that he would forever seal the mine and never pull coal from it again.
The statement by Robert Murray, chief executive of the Murray Energy Corp, about closing the mine was contrary to statements he made earlier this week suggesting that he would rename the mine, Crandall Canyon, and resume operations in another area. The comments led to outrage in the community.
Murray's new assertions came on a day when a fifth bore hole dug into the mine with the hope of revealing signs of life hit mostly rubble and a small open space, an official with the mine said late on Wednesday. A sixth and final hole is being planned, with drills expected to break through by early tomorrow in an area where the miners were last working.
"This is the last hole," Murray said, tearful and glassy-eyed, at a news conference late on Wednesday near the mouth of the mine.
Murray said his words earlier this week had been misunderstood. He said that he did not intend to reopen the mine but that he might mine coal reserves in different mountains several miles from the Crandall Canyon site.
"I have no plans to ever reopen the mine," Murray said in a telephone interview earlier on Wednesday. "I never had any intention of going back in physically. It's done. It's closed."
Murray said he filed paperwork last week with the federal mining agency to shut down the mine, though the agency said late on Wednesday that it had no record of receiving it.