An Australian expert on the Gorniczy Agregat Gasniczy (GAG) engine will arrive in New Zealand tonight, to assist authorities deciding if and when the machine will be used.
In a media briefing this afternoon, chief executive, Peter Whittall confirmed that the fire inside the mine was definitely coal.
“It’s highly likely it’s a coal seam, but not necessarily through the whole mine”, he told a media briefing this afternoon.
He said it was probably a combination of loose coal and part of a seam near the bottom of the shaft.
If the coal seam is on fire, it will make the use of the GAG jet far more difficult, and may have to be done several times to remove the gases from the mine and allow recovery teams down.
Once the engine is running, each time the mine is filled could take four to eight hours.
"There’s hardly any ventilation so I would imagine the air temperature down there would continue to rise with the fire and it would be like a fire in one part of your house (which would) eventually heat the whole part of the house," he said.
Whittall says some families are still hoping “in their hearts” that some miners may still be alive underground, while others have accepted the loss of their loved ones inside the mine where they have been trapped since November 19.
"The men would be potentially…500 metres away from the fire…," Mr Whittall said.
They say they are hoping to use the GAG jet as early as this evening, but say the operation has been stalled by the latest incidents.