2nd attempt to demolish Empire Mine silo deemed successful
CRAIG — The earth quaked, and a boom could be heard just before 2:30 p.m. in the wake of a shockwave produced by explosives detonated in a second attempt to bring down the coal silo at the old Empire Mine south of Craig on Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s on the ground now,” said Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume.
The silo, located near Colorado Highway 13 south of Craig, was knocked off its foundations and has been leaning since a failed demolition attempt on Nov. 20.
According to an email statement provided in November by mine owner Peabody Energy, the company had employed third-party contractors as part of an ongoing effort to decommission the facility. Peabody has yet to provide an explanation as to why the first demolition was unsuccessful.
Former mine employees, such as Moffat County resident Mike Mack, have speculated that contractors may not have accounted for the unusually strong structure.
“The original pour was real bad, so they left the original forms and poured it again, causing it to be two to three times as thick. … They put those cables around it to keep it a stronger structure. They didn’t cut those cables. I think if they had cut those cables, then it would have gone over,” Mack said during an interview in November.
In contrast, the second demolition attempt was deemed a success, though the lower third of the structure was left intact, according to scanner traffic. It is believed that larger explosive charges were used after the first attempt failed.
The larger charges and the proximity of the coal silo to Colo. 13 prompted the mine owners to create a safety perimeter of one mile. The large exclusion zone, in combination with the topography, prevented public viewing of the demolition.
“Peabody has engaged a third-party contractor to decommission the Empire Mine in Northwest Colorado and restore the lands for reuse. The work includes removal of structures that are not viable for future beneficial use, including a silo, which was dismantled. All work was approved by the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining, and Safety, and all applicable permits were in place,” Director of Corporate Communications Charlene Murdock wrote in an emailed response to questions from the Craig Press.
Northwest Colorado residents began noticing changes to the silo in late March.
Murdock was unable to answer questions about the equipment and explosives used in the demolition, removal of debris, how much the company is spending and how many people are working on it. Likewise, the company has not revealed long-term plans for the property.
Now that the tower is down and the highway has re-opened, drivers are asked to use caution and heed all traffic signs in the area to prevent accidents on the narrow, winding canyon road.
Video of the first attempt to demolish the silo and the structure leaning:
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.
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