NZ Government to Re-Enter Pike River Mine

"I've been considering the re-entry recommendations, risk assessments, and information provided by the Pike River Recovery Agency, along with input from independent advisor Rob Fyfe. The re-entry method I have approved is the simplest and safest plan," Minister Andrew Little said Nov. 14.

Eight years after methane explosions killed 29 miners inside the Pike River Mine, with their bodies never recovered, it will soon be re-entered, Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little announced Nov. 14. He said he had decided the Pike River Recovery Agency's recommended course of action to enter the mine using the existing access tunnel, "is by far the safest option."

"I've been considering the re-entry recommendations, risk assessments, and information provided by the Pike River Recovery Agency, along with input from independent advisor Rob Fyfe. The re-entry method I have approved is the simplest and safest plan," he added. "The process we've gone through to plan a safe re-entry has been extensive and robust. Experts from around the world have spent months examining details of all the risks pertaining to each option. The planned method of re-entry will be made safe through the use of controls, in line with mining standards around the world.

"This is an extraordinarily complex undertaking, and we have had the benefit of advice from some of the best in the world in their field. Safety has been our paramount concern throughout this planning process, and supported wholeheartedly by the Pike River families," he said.

On Nov. 19, 2010, a methane explosion occurred in the mine, which is located in the West Coast region of New Zealand's South Island. There were 31 miners and contractors inside the mine at the time; two miners managed to walk out and were treated for minor injuries. The remaining personnel were believed to be at least 1.5 kilometers from the mine entrance. After a second explosion on Nov. 24, police concluded the 29 were dead. Two more explosions followed.

Little said the New Zealand Police are closely involved in the operation and with their support and advice, the tunnel will be thoroughly examined through to the roof fall area. "Work to prepare the mine drift for re-entry is underway and includes venting methane from the mine, pumping nitrogen into the mine, and then filling the drift with fresh air. Additional boreholes have to be drilled and this work will get under way immediately," he explained. "The advice I have received indicates that it is likely to be around February before the re-entry proper gets underway.

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