Sealing of Pike River mine will be stopped

The Government has changed tack on Pike River re-entry, citing new robot technology that will make it safer to go into the mine, and will stop the sealing of the mine.

Stuff: Sealing of Pike River mine will be stopped, says Bill English

Pike River families have been told the sealing of the mine will be stopped following a meeting with Prime Minister Bill English, with Solid Energy asked to look into new technology which could allow unmanned entry.

Family members of the Pike River miners met English for the first time in an attempt to stop the sealing of the mine, and emerged afterwards with cautious optimism about the options on the table.

Some family members of Pike River victims have been campaigning for re-entry, some haven’t.

Bernie Monk, spokesman for some of the Pike River families, said the meeting was “very positive”.

“We’ve got another step forward for us…I think they got a lot of understanding about the ins and outs, because it’s not easy for them to understand what we’ve been through over the last six years.”

Monk said English’s promise to stop the sealing of the mine would allow the group to end its picket at Pike River, which had been going on 24 hours a day for 13 weeks.

Forster said English had stated the Government’s continued opposition to any humans re-entering the drift, but shared a a “clear expectation” that non-manned technology, such as aerial drones, should be considered as an option.

‘Aerial drones’ in a mine sounds funny but they could be flown up the shaft.

English said a decision to re-enter the mine was “not about politics, it is about safety”.

In an election year with families pushing hard and parties, particularly Labour and NZ First, making a political issue out of it, then it’s hard to separate some of the politics.

“We lost 29 lives in that mine and I will not risk losing any more.”

The families’ proposal for re-entering Pike River did not include a detailed plan, “and therefore does not make the case for a safe re-entry”, he said.

However, he would ask Solid Energy to stop work on the mine’s permanent seal and explore options for unmanned entry, after the Government was approached in recent weeks by experts with new proposals.

“The families’ technical advisor agreed that there has been significant advancements in technology since the tragedy occurred six years ago.

“We will ask Solid Energy to explore those options. We will also keep the families informed and allow their technical input into the search for options for unmanned entry.”

The Government would give Solid Energy money to look into the unmanned options, English said.

If drones are used they could look but it’s unlikely they could remove bodies.

Several robot vehicles have already been sent into the mine and have failed (broken down).

Labour leader Andrew Little said stopping the sealing of the mine was “the right thing at this stage”, but questioned why the Government continued to rule out a physical re-entry.

“We’ve got to keep the pressure up…because it must still be possible to get in there and see what remains are in there.”

There is one thing worse than not doing anything about re-entry in election year and that would be sending people into the mine and losing more lives.

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  1. Expectations and hopes have now been raised. The Government will have to push the owners to at least try the new drone technology. However it will not be easy as no-one knows what the situation is inside the mine. The drone will need illumination and probably infra-red capability, plus DF capability and a lot of monitoring equipment similar to the Mars Rovers and how many millions did that cost? I am a tad cynical about the whole process and think the ones who encourage this plan are being bloody cruel to the families concerned by raising their hopes.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  16th February 2017

      BE has not made any promises, so I would guess that if the expense is too great to justify the results, it won’t happen. He seems to be saying no more than that the option will be examined.

      If anyone raises hopes unrealistically, it will be Bernie Monk. Wouldn’t it be better to give the families compensation ? I’d rather have that than a handful of bone crumbs that could be anyone’s and won’t help to raise the family.

      If AL thinks that physical entry is the way to do it, then he’s welcome to put on overalls and helmet and go in.

      • Jay3

         /  17th February 2017

        They have already been paid compensation.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  17th February 2017

          I know that-$170,000 each, wasn’t it ? I meant rather than spending the money on an exercise in futility, give more to the bereaved families.

      • Kitty, as I understand it, the families have been offered $3.4 million from the CEOs Insurance Company that will be in addition to the sum paid out by ACC and the Government. The attempt to appeal against the Health and Safety decision not to proceed against the CEO failed in the Court of Appeal. How much compensation is enough? Think of how much families of NZServicemen KIA get. They are all killed?

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  17th February 2017

          I meant that the money could be better spent than on this pointless errand to bring back a few crumbs, if that.

          The families might, perhaps, remember the old woman and the vinegar bottle story.

          I don’t know about servicemen-except that they are given extra pensions, or were-but the difference is that anyone who joins the army knows that they have a chance of being killed. There is always that chance in a mine, but it’s a tiny one with modern technology. Before Pike River, there hadn’t been anything like it for decades, I think-I can’t remember any. But being in the Army must mean that the person is prepared to go to war and risk their life. It’s a faulty analogy.

          • So servicemen and women lives are less valuable because they accept the risk of combat? A miner has to also accept the dangers of working underground in an earthquake prone region and methane gas environment. What is the fault in tn the analogy? Its called a widow’s pension and is similar to other widows pensions that expire when the widow remarries. There were no widowers’ pensions. Children of KIA were in receipt of a pittance also paid to the widow. My Dad was worth 5 shillings a week to my Nana until he reached 16 years of age.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  17th February 2017

              The pension I meant was for those who’d served; we knew someone who was on it. As far as I know, these still exist. I don’t know about the widows.

              The fault in the analogy is that the two careers are not the same. Mining is more dangerous than office or shop work, being a soldier is more dangerous than mining. Those who do these jobs know this.

            • Actually Kitty as a soldier who has been in action, I would not like to be in a coal mine, ever! If your friend was in receipt of an Armed Forces Superannuation, then he, like me, paid for it by deduction of 7% of all salary throughout his service. He paid for it as an insurance as I did.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  17th February 2017

              I have no idea. When he died, you should have seen the march past the coffin-even an admiral was there.

              The only sad thing was that his son wasn’t there and sent feeble excuses. How awful that whatever had gone on between them couldn’t be put aside at the father’s death. P didn’t know, of course, but his widow must have been terribly hurt. P was a stubborn bugger and perhaps he handed that down-but even so !

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  16th February 2017

      The first problem of using drones in the cave is the communication links with it. Ordinary radio won’t cut it through rock.


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