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Mine boss dims hopes on recovery of workers

HUNTINGTON, Utah -- Faced with a backlash over dimming hopes, a coal mine boss broke his self-imposed silence yesterday to issue e-mails lowering expectations that six trapped coal miners will ever be recovered, dead or alive.

Bob Murray, chief executive of Murray Energy Corp., issued an initial statement that promised "we will not be deterred, and we will not leave this mountain until we find our people."

That was followed a few hours later by another release, saying: "We will not leave this mountain until we achieve a resolution to this tragedy."

The once-outspoken Murray has been noticeably absent from meetings with relatives and from news briefings since three rescuers were killed last week in a tunnel collapse.

Sonny J. Olsen, an attorney acting as spokesman for the families, said they were upset by his absence.

Last night, Murray was spotted arriving at a church where some families were gathered.

Murray's e-mail said the "efforts in the digging and recovering have left me such that I cannot be a good spokesman to the public media on behalf of our efforts to rescue the original six miners."

As the rescue effort entered its third week, families pushed for a crew to bore a hole into the mountain wide enough to accommodate a rescue capsule. Such capsules have been used to save miners in other disasters, but the men in the Crandall Canyon mine were thought to be about 1,500 feet deeper than in those cases.

An attorney for the co-owners of the mine said safety experts believed lowering a capsule would be impossible because the mountain is too unstable.