Christchurch quake delays Pike River investigation

The tragic Christchurch earthquake has delayed the plan to send a robot into the Pike River coal mine.

The mines receivers, PricewaterhouseCoopers had planned for the robot, sent from Western to finally be sent down this week, following previous delays.

Greymouth Mayor Tony Kokshoorn previously said sending a robot into the mine would be a major step forward.

Its purpose is to assess the damage and determine whether the remains of the 29 men killed inside the mine on November 19 can be recovered.

The Western Australian team sent to support the robot was in its way to Pike River, but has been redirected to assist with the Christchurch disaster, New Zealand Mines Rescue manager Trevor Watts told NZPA.

He said the group had specialist camera equipment which could help the quake rescue effort, and if needed, his rescue staff would also go to Christchurch.

Until then, despite the robot team not being at the mine, the recovery efforts there will continue, with plans to bore another hole into the mine to gain more information.

Watts said there were some similarities between earthquake and mine rescue work, but the building part is a specialised field."Trying to analyse and determine stability of a building is completely different to determining the stability of an underground mine," he told NZPA.

He said one of the most important concerns in the Christchurch operation is the same as at Pike River – the safety of the rescue workers.

"They’ll be faced with some pretty horrendous situations to go into…It’s quite hard to comprehend the level of destruction and the massive rescue and recovery effort that’s going to have to take place."

Local media is reporting that the Hotel Grand Chancellor is threatening to collapse in Christchurch, making the recovery more difficult and dangerous.

Watts has urged workers to seek support through the rescue operation.

"Because at the end of the day, we’re not robots, we’re human beings. These people need to call on their support networks," he said.

Another Australian company involved in the Pike River tragedy was the Mackay-based Mastermyne Group, who had a continuous miner hired out to the Greymouth mine at the time of the explosions.

The company did not expect to get the $3.034 million piece of equipment back, nor the related $525 000 exposure which has become a bad debt expense.

Despite this, the company has posted a record growth in the last half year.

Chief executive Tony Caruso said it was the "biggest ever growth for a six-month period in the company’s history".

It saw a 18.7 per cent rise in profits after tax, totalling $4.425 million for the period, while consolidated revenue increased 59.6 per cent to $73.6 million and net assets rose $4 million to $37 million.

The group also hired over 200 extra staff and saw increases in working capital requirements.

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