An underground coal miner has suspected spinal injuries after a rockfall yesterday.
New Zealand coal company Solid Energy has suspended operations at its Spring Creek mine, near Greymouth after the incident early Wednesday morning.
According to Solid Energy "the injured miner was a member of a team installing roof support in a recently formed underground tunnel area.
"The incident is still being investigated but it appears a lump of coal fell to the floor nearby and knocked him down as it toppled over."
The man, who is in his 50s, was carried 50 metres on a stretcher and then driven three kilometres through underground tunnels to the mine's entrance, Stuff.co.nz reports.
A miner who helped the injured man told Stuff that "he wasn't in any obvious pain and told us he wasn't scared, but I think he was in shock".
Brett Murray, general manager of the High Hazards Unit, told Fairfax NZ that "a miner was hit by falling coal, and the inspectors who went to the mine today are concerned that Solid Energy's management of strata (or seam) stability in the mine is not at an acceptable level.
"Our inspectors believe the accident had the potential to have been fatal."
Solid Energy's group manager coal operations, Larry Hull, stated that "we're obviously very concerned that one of our people has been hurt.
"Prior to the inspectors' decision the mine's management team had already ceased underground face operations and had begun a risk assessment and review of all relevant operating procedures and job safety checklists.
"If any changes are needed as a result of those reviews, the underground mining teams and supervisors will take part in refresher training before work resumes," Hull added.
This is not the first time the Spring Creek coal mine has been forced to close.
Earlier this year Solid halted operations after the mine failed to report a number of safety incidents.
According to the acting chief inspector of mines, Gavin Taylor, in the space of three weeks a diesel generator caught fire and spewed high concentrations of carbon monoxide throughout the underground mine; one of the main fans tripped with no alert to management for more than an hour; and a underground auxiliary fan tripped over two consecutive days but operations did not stop.