Pike River had many problems: expert

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Former Pike River mine safety consultant David Stewart yesterday told the New Zealand Royal Commission into the tragedy he had a host of concerns over the mine’s safety prior to its explosion.

During his audits Stewart said he highlighted problems with the main ventilation fan’s position and instrumentation and a lack of remote gas monitoring sensors.

He said he had also raised concerns about the mine’s uncontrolled gas drainage and ventilation management, including the high risk the mine’s gas drainage pipes had of being damaged by vehicles.

According to Stuff Stewart also criticised the108-metre ventilation shaft designated as the mine’s second escape route.

He told the hearing the shaft was “impracticable for a large number of personnel at any one time and only the fittest would escape through this route, particularly while wearing a self-rescuer”. 

The mine’s former hydro mining co-ordinator George Mason’s submission was also read yesterday.

In the document Mason outlined how he had felt “out of depth” in his role, having no experience in the coal mining method prior to starting work at Pike River.

This morning the head of the Royal Commission said the area of Pike River being hydraulically mined was a “prime suspect” in determining how the accident unfolded.

According to the New Zealand Herald Justice Graham Packhurst said there was a “focus on hydro mining because it’s a difficult mining technique”.

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