Recovery efforts have taken a step forward with workers finally capping the Pike River coal mine.
Two large steel plates were lowered, via helicopter, onto the mine’s ventilation shafts and then secured with sandbags on Sunday at 2pm local time.
Capping of the ventilation shafts is expected to trap the carbon dioxide emitted by the GAG jet, controlling the mine’s oxygen levels and preventing fires from reigniting.
If the oxygen levels remain stable, then the GAG jet can be stopped for maintenance while workers use more concrete to seal the mine’s entrance.
From that point onwards “it will be a case of maintaining a stable atmosphere inside the mine,” Police superintendent Dave Cliff said.
Police plan to eventually pump nitrogen gas into the underground mine over the coming days to retain the inert atmosphere and cool the mine.
On Friday, Police stated their intention to hand control of the mine back to Pike River Coal, who are focused on the recovery of 29 miners underground.