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Copper theft suspect sought in abandoned West Virginia mine

WHARTON, W.Va. (AP) — Crews are searching an abandoned coal mine in West Virginia for a missing man suspected of stealing copper.

State Miner’s Health, Safety and Training director Eugene White says the underground search began Thursday with Blackhawk Mining to enter the company’s former mine in Wharton. The mine was closed in 1998 and has been sealed.

Boone County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Barker identified the suspect as 38-year-old Wes Blackburn of Oceana. Barker says two others arrested Monday near the mine indicated Blackburn had gone inside. Barker says all three are suspected of stealing copper and have been charged.

Law enforcement efforts to locate the man above ground were exhausted Wednesday.

Conditions inside the mine are unknown. White says toxic levels of gas, roof falls, flooding and other dangers may exist.

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