Solid Energy buys Pike River coal mine

 Pike River Coal’s receivers PricewaterhouseCoopers has sold the embattled coal mine to New Zealand’s Solid Energy.

The sale has been welcomed as a ‘giant step’ towards retrieving the bodies still trapped within the mine, the NZ Herald reports.

The coal miner was first touted as an acquirer of the Pike River mine in March last year.

Recovering the bodies entombed in the mine would be a first priority for the company, according to its chief executive Don Elder, and the company is committed to addressing the "many challenges" of making the mine economically viable and ensuring the wishes of the victims families are also met.

"As a non-negotiable part of that, the wishes of the families have to be a priority in considering all options including potential recovery, if feasible, of the 29 miners’ bodies, he said.

"The same applies to the unsecured creditors on the West Coast; any solution to invest in and work the mine needs to address that issue as a top priority."

Solid Energy released a statement which said it would not necessarily use the existing Pike Rover Coal Ltd assets and equipment for future mining.

While the purchase price has not been publicised, Pike River was valued at $400 million prior to the explosion.

According to PwC spokesperson John Fisk, the bid is conditional, and creditors will soon be updated on the terms of the deal.

Following more than a year of royal inquiries, the cause of the deadly mine disaster is believed to have been uncovered.

The commissions told the media that a panel of five experts believe that the explosion was caused by a roof collapse which expelled methane gas around the mine, which then ignited due to a spark from the electrical system after the water pumps were turned on.

The resulting blast killed 29 men.

According to chairman of the inquiry, Graham Panckhurst, the mine’s roof caved in at the goaf; pushing high amounts of methane into the rest of the mine.

Pike River was already noted as a particularly gassy coal mine, although it has been revealed that plastic bags were used to cover the gas sensors, adding to the tragedy.

It is believed that arcing from the mine’s electrical system caused the methane and coal dust to ignite.

Solid Energy recently came under fire from the New Zealand Department of Labour, and was forced to stop underground mining at its Spring Creek coal mine.

However, it soon reopened the mine.

According to Tony Kokshoorn, mayor of Greymouth – where the Pike River tragedy occurred, the purchase of the mine by Solid Energy is a ‘win-win’ for the region.

Kokshoorn stated that Solid had the capital to make the mine viable, whereas Pike River struggled financially, forcing it to take safety shortcuts.

 

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