Published: Apr 29, 2010 1:16 PM EDT

     PROVIDENCE, Ky. (AP) - Two miners were missing Thursday and
rescuers were unable to contact them after a roof collapsed in a
large underground coal mine in western Kentucky, company and union
officials said.
      Rescue crews were in the mine on Thursday morning, said Ricki
Gardenhire, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety
and Licensing. Mine operators told a news conference that they are
holding out hope of finding the miners alive.
      Gardenhire said a section of roof gave way some 24,000 feet
underground in the Webster County Coal Dotiki (doh-TEE'-kee) Mine
about 10 p.m. Wednesday.
      The missing miners were operating what's known as a continuous
miner, a toothy machine that digs coal for transport to the
surface, Gardenhire said.
      The rescue teams from the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing
and the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration "were in the
area where the miners are believed to be" by 8 a.m. Thursday, he
said.
      Tim Miller from the United Mine Workers Union said at least two
others escaped after a rock fall in the mine near Providence, about
150 miles west of Louisville.
      "Rescue operations were initiated immediately, but efforts to
contact the miners have been unsuccessful," a spokeswoman for the
mine told the Evansville Courier & Press.
      Calls by The Associated Press to mine operator Alliance Coal Co.
were not immediately answered.
      Miller said he was called around 6 a.m. by a woman who had
received a call from the mine. The woman said she was told her
husband and her son, who were working in the mine, were safe, but
that two other miners were missing.
      Miller said the Dotiki Mine employs more than 300 miners.
      The mine is owned by Alliance Resource Partners, based in Tulsa,
Okla. The company's website says it purchased the mine in 1971 and
produces high-sulfur coal there.
      The company primarily sells coal to electric utilities. It
reported 3,090 full-time employees, $1.1 billion in assets and $1.2
billion in total revenues at the end of 2009.
      The nation's worst coal mine disaster in 40 years happened this
month in West Virginia, where 29 men died in an explosion inside a
mine owned by Massey Energy Co.
      Kentucky has had one miner killed this year in a roof fall at a
mine in southeastern Kentucky. Travis G. Brock, 29, was working at
the Bledsoe Coal Co. at the Abner Branch mine in southern Leslie
County.
      The state's worst mine disaster in recent years occurred four
years ago when five miners died in at Darby Mine No. 1 in Harlan
County. Two of the miners were killed immediately in the May 20,
2006 blast. Three others died of carbon monoxide poisoning while
trying to escape.
      Kentucky led the nation in mining deaths last year with six in
coal mines and one in a limestone quarry.