The Pike River coal mine drift will be re-entered, New Zealand’s government has confirmed, almost eight years after multiple explosions rocked the operation on November 19 2010.
Pike River mine is 46 kilometres north-northeast of Greymouth in the West Coast region of New Zealand’s South Island.
In 2013, Pike River Coal company was found guilty on all nine health and safety charges for the mine disaster that killed 29 workers.
After plans of re-entry have been abandoned multiple times, due to safety hazards, the New Zealand Government has once again put it on the agenda.
Minister responsible for Pike River re-entry Andrew Little said, “On the basis of all the material I have been presented with, I am satisfied that there is now a safe plan for re-entry and recovery.”
Three feasible options have been considered, namely a single entry using the existing drift design; drilling a second tunnel at the end of the drift, closer to the mine workings; and drilling a large borehold part way down the drift for both ventilation and emergency egress.
The first option has been determined the “simplest and safest” path to re-entering the mine drift.
Little said, “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.”
Plans were developed with the close involvement of the Pike River families and their representatives, and presented by the Pike River Recovery Agency – Te Kāhui Whakamana Rua Tekau mā Iwa – which was established 100 days of becoming the government for the project.
The New Zealand Police has been engaged to prepare for any role they might play in forensic examination and victim identification.
The cabinet has also backed the project with an additional $NZ14 million ($13 million) to execute the single entry option, bringing the total cost of the project to $NZ36 million.
Little said, “A nitrogen plant has been transported to the site and commissioned, and will now be brought into service. Over the next several weeks, additional small boreholes to assist pumping and ventilation will be drilled. Other preparatory work will be completed.”
The first major task to gain re-entry is expected to commence in February 2019.
The Minister said, “The people of New Zealand can rest assured that this re-entry plan is achievable. It is now our intention to get this job done, and try and find out why those 29 men went to work on 19 November 2010, and never came home.”