Robot may make mine rescue worse

A robot being sent underground to find the missing miners may increase the danger of the situation, Pike River’s chairman John Dow has said.

As the drilling of the bore holes on site continues, the potentially dangerous trapped gases are being monitored every half hour.

However, "the dilemma we have is that you can’t operate in a gaseous environment like (the underground mine) with equipment that might be generating a spark, and robots would be like that," Dow told Radio New Zealand.

Dow went on to say that it was obvious that a fire had erupted underground.

He explained that due to the elevated levels of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, there had been some measure of burning take place.

“What the mines rescue folk are doing now are measuring those levels amongst other things to see whether or not it might have just been a temporary fire that’s now out or whether or not there could be still something smouldering,” Dow said.

Rescue teams have arrived from all over the country to assist, including a seven man rescue team from NSW, and experts in mine safety personnel and equipment from QLD.

The State’s premier Anna Bligh said that "four Queensland mine safety officers with 290kg of equipment touched down in New Zealand at 5.00am this morning to lend any assistance required.”

The Queensland team includes two experienced gas chemists, Darren Brady and Lauren Forrester, an expert on whole of mine gas monitoring systems, Larry Ryan and a mine ventilation expert, Deputy Chief Inspector of Coal Mines, Mr Ken Singer.

"This team will play a critical role in advising mine management about gas levels in the mine as rescue efforts swing into action," Bligh said.

Efforts continue on site.

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