Josh and Susan Powell
Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune/AP; Amber Hardman/AP
08/19/2011 at 12:00 PM EDT
Nearly two years after Susan Powell's disappearance
, an army of investigators launched a high-profile search of abandoned mine shafts in the Nevada desert about 200 miles southwest of her Utah home.
Acting on what has been called "important" and "credible" new information,
a total of 45 detectives and other investigators are scouring a remote region west of the town of Ely, Nev.
Wearing hard hats with lights, the searchers were seen rappelling into the old mine shafts throughout the day Friday.
After months of keeping a tight lid on details about the case, police in West Valley City, Utah, have been unusually open about the latest development and even invited the media to accompany searchers.
"Detectives have made a preemptive drive out here to see what we may be looking at," says Sgt. Mike Powell (no relation). "We felt that it was important to as much as we were able to involve the media in the process."
He did not say what investigators were looking for and where exactly the search would focus.
Susan Powell vanished in December 2009, and her husband, Joshua Powell – who initially refused to cooperate with authorities – told investigators he last saw her at their house southwest of Salt Lake City on the night of Sunday, Dec. 6, when he took their then 2- and 4-year-old sons for an overnight camping trip.
Powell, who has since been identified as a person of interest in the case, has suggested his wife may have run away with another man.
On Thursday, Joshua Powell, who now lives in Washington state with the children, said he was "overjoyed" with news of the search.
"It's been a hard two years, it's been lonely," he told KING-TV
news in Seattle. "I will always love her."