(03/22/2007)
The Sago mine where 12 miners died in a methane gas explosion in 2006 is slated to be closed down.

The company, International Coal Group, is citing high production costs and weak prices.

The January 2006 explosion led to sweeping changes in federal and state mine safety laws, many of which are yet to be put in place.

ICG said it is not closing Sago permanently and said it could reopen if prices rebound.

ICG has cut the number of underground workers at the mine from 90 to 44 at the end of 2006.

The remaining Sago Mine workers have been offered employment at other ICG mines.

John Groves, whose brother Jerry Groves died in the mine explosion, said ICG is finally acknowledging that Sago was a problem mine.

"They knew that there were some problems with the mine before they even opened it," Groves said. "They tried to make it work by cutting whatever corners or doing whatever they could to make it a productive mine at the cost of 12 men's lives."

The company is facing a number of lawsuits related to the deaths.

ICG lost $9.3 million last year, compared with a profit of $31.8 million in 2005. The company has partially blamed the loss on the Sago explosion.


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