Smouldering coal likely suspect for mine blast, geologists say

It is believed that smouldering coal in the depths of the Pike River mine is a culprit in New Zealand’s most deadly mine tragedy since 1967.

It is believed that smouldering coal in the depths of the Pike River mine is a culprit in New Zealand’s most deadly mine tragedy since 1967.

Canterbury University geologist David Bell said that smouldering coal most likely ignited the surrounding methane gas, left from the original explosion.

Bell warned of the potential of further explosions as the toxic gases again build up within the mine.

He went on to say that the safest way rescuers could recover the bodies was by either sealing the mine and then flooding it with water, or preventing oxygen from entering into the underground mine.

While mine bosses have received criticism from the public for not entering the coal mine as soon as possible, Bell explained that experience has shown, both in at Queensland’s Moura coal mine disaster and eventually Pike River itself, that there is always the danger of secondary explosions.

However, safety experts have stated that rescuers could have gone underground to try and retrieve the men within the first four hours, before the mine had time to fill with deadly methane gas.

Pike River Coal chief executive Peter Whittall is now determined to recover the bodies of the missing miners.

"Regardless of what happened and that the men are no longer alive, which is likely, I still want my men back and their families want them back, and we’ll be doing everything we can to make that happen,” he said.

"We’ve still got 29 men in there, and we need to get them out."

As flags fly at half mast, another coal mine disaster has struck, with two explosions at underground Colombian coal mines.

The blasts, believed to have also been caused by methane gas, have potentially left nine miners dead.

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