Bob Butero, of the United Mine Workers of America office in Wheat Ridge, Colo., arrived at the mine's entrance Friday afternoon to serve a written notice to the Emery County Sheriff's Office. The notice said the union will represent miners from Crandall Canyon in future discussions with the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Butero said the union's discussions with MSHA will include how to proceed with the recovery of the six trapped miners. The union's presence does not mean Crandall Canyon workers have organized, he said.
In an interview outside the sheriff's command post, Butero cited a section of federal law allowing a union to represent nonunion mine workers when two or more miners request it. He would not say how many miners requested the union's assistance.
"They felt in this process there wasn't a representative of the miners," Butero said. "I guess they felt left out."
Mine ownership did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The UMWA has been a vocal critic since the Aug. 6 collapse that trapped the six miners. The union criticized the owners of the Crandall Canyon mine for practicing "retreat mining," where coal and rock pillars supporting the ceiling are removed, and federal regulators for allowing the practice. Retreat mining is suspected of being a factor in the Aug. 6 collapse and the one 10 days later that killed three men trying to reach the trapped men.
This week, the UMWA wrote congressional leaders to request an independent investigation of the mine.
Robert Murray, whose company is co-owner of the Crandall Canyon mine, has lambasted the UMWA and accused the organization of using the six trapped miners as an opportunity to organize the mine.
Butero said the union believes the six trapped miners should not be left where they are but said he doesn't know the best way to remove them because he was not privy to all the information.
"Our stance is that decision should not be taken lightly," Butero said. "It should be fully evaluated."