Pike River re-entry plan

Pike River families came to parliament today with a plan for re-entry to the Pike River mine. The plan is backed by experts who have different advice than the experts advising Solid Energy.

Stuff: Families of Pike River mine disaster victims release expert plan for safe re-entry

Families of some of the victims of the 2010 Pike River mine explosion have submitted an experts’ report to Parliament in a bid to stop Solid Energy from sealing the “crime scene” forever.

The report was written by David Creedy, vice-chairman of the United Nations group of experts on coal mine methane, and Bob Stevenson, a former mines inspector in Britain.

The report has been peer-reviewed and endorsed by Britain’s leading mines rescue expert, Brian Robinson, and mining ventilation experts John Rowland and Roy Moreby.

“What I have is a credible plan from our mines experts, our international experts, from the UK and Australia, saying this can be done and it can be done safely,” Osborne said while holding the report up to the crowd.

“And it’s actually not that hard. The drift is safe. It is a stone tunnel, it cannot explode, we can enter it. These guys, our experts, are saying it can be done.”

RE-ENTRY PLAN

The method for re-entry proposed by Creedy and Stevenson would involve establishing a nitrogen plant at the mine to provide inert gases as required.

Surface boreholes would serve as “return airways” along the 2.3km drift, with flame traps installed at two boreholes to prevent fuel combustion.

The 170m stopping would be ventilated, with air or nitrogen allowed into the mine, while auxiliary fans would be established at the drift entrance to control airflow into the mine.

The report says the ventilation system, complete with degassing units, would more than double the amount of air required to dilute the measured methane flow to a safe standard of one per cent.

“Special attention” would be given to the maintenance bays at 1.9km, which are offset to the drift.

Once the ventilation system was complete, the “inbye workings” – those going towards the coal face – would be isolated to remove the risk of heating and reduce gas emissions.

As the drift was entered, roof, wall and floor conditions would be inspected before workers proceeded. Additional support would be installed in areas where the drift condition was a concern, while existing camera evidence could identify areas unable to be traversed until made safe.

Major obstructions such as floor debris would be removed to minimise hazards, and vehicles would be used to transport materials and provide rapid evacuation of miners.

The number of workers in the mine would be limited to the “absolute minimums” for the work being done.

I have no doubt that the mine could be re-entered, but there will always be risks involved.

And it will cost, probably a substantial amount, but no indication of how much.

Getting right up the drift and into the mine, searching for and recovering 29 bodies, and investigating possible causes of the explosions, would be a time consuming and costly project.

I understand some of the families want remains recovered, but it still has to be asked whether the chances of success stack up and if it is worth the risk.

Labour leader Andrew Little vowed to families he would do everything he could to open the site for re-entry should his Labour party be elected at the next election.

“A political commitment was made to you, that the Government of the day would do everything they could to get your men out and bring them back, to return them to you so you can give them a dignified farewell.

“And so you are right to come here to have that promise fulfilled.”

But he didn’t say Labour would re-enter the mine, just that they would get expert advice. This really isn’t much difference to John Key’s commitment.

…Peters saying he was so confident in the expert plan to re-enter the mine that he would go in himself.

Peters said that, as “someone with some experience” in working underground, he would have no problem entering the mine drift.

Peters worked on the Snowy Mountain Scheme in the 1960s in what he described as a tremendously dangerous project where “they lost a man a mile”.

That is ridiculous populist pandering, even for Peters. There is no way anyone should let him anywhere near the mine.

English has dismissed Winston Peters’ offer of personally entering the mine, saying the NZ First leader should not trivialise the tragedy.

“I don’t think anyone will take that seriously. There’s a serious safety issue there and he shouldn’t trivialise it,” English said on Tuesday afternoon.

“He’s not an expert. The issue here is around the safety of the mine and, under the law, the decisions have to be made about the safety of that mine by people who are responsible for it, not by politicians.”

And Peters has said NZ First will make re-entry a condition of coalition support (another one).

Politics aside, the plan should be assessed, at least approximately costed, and judged against the chances of success.

Leave a comment

32 Comments

  1. Pete Kane

     /  13th December 2016

    “……..Bob Stevenson, a former mines inspector…..” For what it’s worth Newshub listed him as the former Chief Mines Inspector of GB. If they’re correct, you would think that’s reasonable clout?.

    Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  13th December 2016

        I wonder how many of these people would be willing to go down themselves. That would be the ultimate test of their belief in its safety.

        Reply
        • Quite. There must be a way that the legal responsibility could be resolved to enable a posse lead by Peters, his caucus, Little, Turei &Shaw and their caucuses to enter the mine. I’m all for it.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  14th December 2016

            I can see no reason why not. They’d need a bit of training, of course. Bernie Monks might want to go in, too.

            Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  14th December 2016

            Is there any reason why this couldn’t happen ?

            Reply
          • Gezza

             /  14th December 2016

            There would have to be so many people involved in arranging a mine entry who would have be indemnified against any responsibility in the event of another fatal disaster it’s probably just not practical. I think there does need to be a government response to this most recent report saying it is safe – i.e. an independent analysis – & I expect this is what will happen.

            Reply
    • Probably. As I said, I’m sure the mine can be re-entered, but not without some risks and costs. I don’t know whether it’s worth it or not.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  13th December 2016

        Doesn’t Bernie Monk think that the ones who don’t want the mine to be reopened and for their family member to be left in peace there have any rights ?

        Never mind, silly question. It’s a damned shame that the dead men are being used for political point-scoring.

        Reply
  2. Kitty Catkin

     /  13th December 2016

    Any company who lost a man a mile should have been closed down instanter, Who would work for them with those odds and safety record ? If WP wants to pay for and go into Pike River to recover a few charred bits of bone, let him. He is probably saying it knowing that it’s unlikely to happen. By saying ‘bodies’, people are giving a very false impression. Even if they were bodies, would they be bodies now ?

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  13th December 2016

      The Snowy death toll was high-121 men-but if it had been as WP said, it would have been many times that. 121 is an appalling number.

      Reply
  3. artcroft

     /  13th December 2016

    Personally I’m against going back in. I can’t see the point and don’t want taxpayers on the hook for what would probably be a very expensive venture prone to large budget blow outs. Just like the mine when it was working.

    Reply
  4. Corky

     /  13th December 2016

    Bill English’s first tactical mistake. As for Andy…add it to his montage of foot shooting and tap dancing

    Reply
  5. Kabull

     /  13th December 2016

    If approval is given for families’ representatives to re-enter the Drift AT THEIR OWN RISK, I presume they would be debarred from making claims against ACC in the event of accident or death. The Crown should not have to carry any liability for such ‘private’ entry.
    This leads to the question of whether the individuals entering the mine would be able to obtain personal insurance. It might be very expensive cover if any insurer was prepared to accept the activity as an insurable risk. If insurance was not available, I bet nobody would enter, regardless of how much they believed their plan was safe.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  13th December 2016

      Thank you for raising a point that should have been obvious ! You are quite right.

      I wonder how many of those calling for it are willing to go in themselves, full stop,

      Reply
  6. Strong For Life

     /  13th December 2016

    Send Winston, Little, Monk and the other Pike River families and the expert down into the mine if it is so safe.

    Reply
  7. patupaiarehe

     /  13th December 2016

    I don’t think the ‘recovery mission’ will recover anything but bones, if that. It is really about getting answers. Perhaps the answer will be a cigarette lighter beside a skeleton, or perhaps something else… No-one will know, until someone goes in there…

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  13th December 2016

      No, it’s not. It’s about getting bones patu. There’ll be nothing in there in the way of evidence or answers after how many explosions & a continuing conflagration that went on for ages. And there’ll be no more investigations whether they go in or not, imo.

      Reply
      • patupaiarehe

         /  13th December 2016

        There is only one way to know for sure G. As I said earlier, it might be as simple as a cigarette lighter beside a skeleton,.. Or it might be something completely different… There is only one way to know……….

        Reply
  8. Yip lets start campaigning on dead mens bones. Classy Andy, classy.

    IF the families want to go in – then godspeed and sign away liability at law for the consequences by indemnifying the owners and forgoing any ACC claims related to working in or entering the mine.

    And who is the PR company advising Bernie and crew? Who are the connected to?

    Reply
    • Brown

       /  13th December 2016

      I suspect you can’t sign away the law – in my experience acts do not allow contracting out when they punish breaches. In my world you could go in if you want because there’d be no ACC and you’d pay to have help if it turned ugly. No govt or Solid Energy money either – just privately funded. We would see how keen Monk is if it was going to cost him an arm and a leg.

      Reply
  9. Patzcuaro

     /  14th December 2016

    If anyone goes in with Winston it should be the Board of Director and senior management of Pike River Coal.

    Reply
  10. In amongst all of the comment, I found this:
    Geraldine couple Rod and Christine Holling lost their 41-year-old son, Richard, as a result of an explosion at the West Coast mine on November 19, 2010. The Hollings have expressed their wish for Richard’s remains to be left untouched in the mine, saying that knowing where his remains were allowed them “closure”.

    Other families of miners killed in the mine issued a joint statement today expressing disappointment with the state-owned mining company’s decision not to recover the miners’ remains, but Rod Holling said the announcement was “good news”.

    “Our biggest fear is that someone else will get killed [re-entering the mine] and who will be responsible?”

    Holling was sceptical of former UK mining inspector Bob Stevenson’s claims the mine could be safely entered. He also believed mining companies would learn lessons about health, safety and mine construction from the disaster. . .

    See https://homepaddock.wordpress.com/tag/bob-stevenson/.

    How much will the alternative plan cost? Who in NZ is competent to carry it out? What is to be gained?

    The reality is that what remains there are are most likely ashes, so DNA identification is probably impossible. Forensic inspection would be needed and the proper procedures followed to recover any remains. Then what, the ashes etc will be placed in a wooden box and the remains buried. At what gain from the families?

    The mine is their relatives tomb and will be looked after by the Department of Conservation for time immemorial, with an appropriate marker for what will be one of the most expensive tombs ever created. Think about our soldiers killed in action and buried overseas. If the Pike River Mine is reopened it will set a precedent for recovery of the KIA soldiers, sailors and airmen of all genders. This is a ludicrous possibility. Rest in peace men of Pike River your shift is never over. Leave us alone they would have wanted to say to those left behind, get on with life, but remember us, and learn the lessons of our sacrifice well. Do not politicise this tragedy Mr Little et al.

    Reply
  11. Alan Wilkinson

     /  14th December 2016

    Make Winston Minister of Pike River Recovery and give him a fixed budget to do the job.

    Then stand well clear.

    Reply
  12. As I continue to say, Winston has reached his use by date. The sort of bottom line he proposes is absurd, and I wonder if he is suffering from dementia, not that I would wish that on him. His comments are irrational and show why he has failed to achieve leadership. A loose cannon at best.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  15th December 2016

      Last time I looked he was leader of a major NZ political party,and has Treasurer ,Foreign Affairs minister and dep P.M on his C.V.

      Reply

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