Claims money stopping receivers from entering Pike River mine

The former safety and training manager of the Pike River coal mine has voiced frustrations over the delays of re-entering the mine.

Neville Rockhouse is not only the former expert on safety at the mine, he also had two sons who were employed at the mine.

Daniel Rockhouse was one of the two men who survived the blast, but his other son Ben was not so fortunate.

He says the problems being faced at the mine are the result of money issues, which receivers deny.

Rockhouse told TVNZ that plans to build a second seal further into the tunnel to close the mine off and stabilise it are being continually deferred PricewaterhouseCoopers because of the cost involved.

"It’s business and irrespective of what you hear in the media and what certain politicians at all levels in this country say, it is about money, it has been about money from day one and we know it," he said.

According to Rockhouse the seal is necessary because the other seal placed over the entrance to the mine has always leaked oxygen because it was established in a hurry under emergency circumstances.

However, receiver John Fisk said the reason for the five-month delay is not financial and says risk assessments needed to be done and materials ordered.

He also said a significant amount of other work has been carried out by the receivers, including drilling thre new boreholes.

Rockhouse said the lack of progress in sealing the mine has created unbearable delays for the families of victims.

"This should’ve been done months ago, there was a good plan and had it been executed months ago we wouldn’t be going through all this and it’s quite unbearable," Rockhouse told Newstalk ZB.

"This is not the Titanic, this is not sunk in about four or five miles of water. We have got the technology, we have got the know how to get right up to that pool or about 1500m and put the seal in there.

"There is technology but not the money to do it."

Fisk said they still haven’t had the go-ahead from Mines Rescue to re-enter the mine.

"At this stage I haven’t been told that Mines Rescue are satisfied that things are ready to go in and do that work," he said.

Another box found

Last week, footage showing a fully-clothed body inside the mine was revealed, along with an open fire box.

The discoveries indicated that some of the 29 men may have survived the initial blast, despite an inquiry determining in January that it would have been so great nobody could have lived through it.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the discovery of the body did not change the fact that the mine was still extremely dangerous.

On Friday Rockhouse finished at Pike River and when he went down to the entrance of the mine to farewell workers, including his 21-year-old son, and when there he found a box identical to that seen opened in the mine last week.

"I went down to the portal to say goodbye to the boys and spend some time with my son before I left Pike River Coal for the last time, and behold I saw one sticking out of the wreckage and we loaded that on to a truck and took it to the police department,” he said.

Tests are being carried out by police to determine if it was blown open by the explosion or opened by a person.
 

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