Pike River re-entry costs escalate

A ‘concept plan’ for re-entry into the Pike River mine to recover miners’ bodies has been presented to their families by the Minister responsible for Pike River re-entry Andrew Little (actually three alternative options), but with that is a bigger than previously estimated cost.

RNZ: Pike River re-entry: ‘Concept plan’ presented to families

A plan for re-entering the drift of the Pike River Mine has been presented to victims’ familes in Greymouth this morning.

The plan is being described as a “concept plan” with more detailed planning to follow if it is approved.

Minister responsible for Pike River re-entry Andrew Little, and Pike River Recovery Agency chief executive Dave Gawn have been talking to the relatives of the 29 men killed in the mine in 2010.

Mr Little said the families were now discussing the plan and he hoped to give it the go-ahead on Monday.

However, he said he expected they would approve the concept plan.

“My sense is the families are really happy with the level of work that has been done, the quality of ther work. They seem pretty satisfied with it … They’re keen for the project to continue to make progress, so that we re-enter the drift and recover as much as we can.”

RNZ:  Pike River Mine re-entry narrowed to three options

The planned re-entry to the Pike River mine has been narrowed to three options.

Mining specialists, Pike River Recovery Agency staff and family members of the 29 men killed in the 2010 blast were on the West Coast for a second workshop aimed at coming up with a plan for manned re-entry of the mine drift.

A panel of technical experts will now shift the focus to three scenarios which are now being developed further.

The scenarios include:

  • building a new two by two-metre tunnel around 200m long;
  • drilling a large diameter borehole;
  • re-entering the main drift as it is with no second means of egress (exit).

The aim is to try and find out what happened in order to prevent any further tragedies, to give the families closure and where possible, retrieve any remains found in the drift, the agency said.

Dinghy Pattinson, the recovery agency’s chief operating officer, said he was confident they would get back in.

“Any mining activity has dangers or risks involved, so it’s a matter of just identifying those risks throughout the whole process and having your controls in place,” Mr Pattinson said.

“If there was any real danger then that would be a show-stopper, so at this stage all the risks identified – I feel confident we can manage them.”

Recovery Agency chief executive Dave Gawn said they had made bigger steps during this workshop.

“We still anticipate entering the mine before the end of the year, and we still think that’s achievable. This workshop is only step number two in a number yet to take,” Mr Gawn said.

He said among the steps was a detailed risk analysis of the preferred options.

It sounds like they are still far from certain how to get back into the mine, how risky it would be – and how much it would cost, even they they don’t yet know how they will do it.

Stuff: Pike River re-entry could cost $12m more than $23m budget, minister says

The plan to re-enter the Pike River mine could cost up to $12 milllion more than the $23 million budget, Stuff understands.

The Government had budgeted $7.6 million a year for three years, totalling up to $23m, for the Pike River Recovery Agency and re-entry to the mine.

When asked if he had told Cabinet the agency would need up to $12m more, Little said one of the options could cost up to that amount, but others would be less than that.

“We won’t know exactly what the figures are until more detailed work has been done.

While there remains a lot of doubt about how a re-entry would be achieved the expected cost seems to keep escalating.

I understand that some families really want the bodies of some miners recovered (some families don’t see the need).

What if the option chosen is the more expensive one – $35 million – and they get into the mine and they can’t find or can’t recover all of the bodies? What if bodies unrecovered are from families that most want them recovered? What then? Keep spending until they find and recover them all?

What if they can’t find out the cause of the explosions?



  1. Corky

     /  July 15, 2018

    I listened to family of dead miners on the news. One raised an interest point. If experts had been allowed to handle the Pike River crisis, the outcome may have been different. Just like experts in Thailand were allowed to get on with the job of rescuing boys trapped underground.

    New Zealand is a classic example of a Western nation bogged down in bureaucratic red tape, with authorities scared to implement something without ”consultation.” Our authorities are also psychologically unprepared for handling disasters as a new generation of Kiwis assume the helm. Kiwis who have lived a pampered existence.

    Pike River is a forerunner as to how authorities will react/overreact to our first terrorist attack.

    I think the National Party should become religious and pray no bodies are recovered. They would take a massive hit from the public

    • Griff

       /  July 15, 2018

      What part of dangerous levels of methane dont you get?
      One spark and kaboom.
      What part of unstable mine conditions dont you get?
      One wrong move and the entire shit show collapses.

      First rule of any first response effort drummed into any one who does first response training .
      Your own safety comes first.

      Running into a crisis situation without properly evaluating the risk often results in more dead body’s pilling up. No living persons life is worth sacrificing in efforts to retrieve a corpse .

      • Corky

         /  July 15, 2018

        Nothing you have written is wrong. Unfortunately we will never know because ”experts’ weren’t allowed to access the situation from the get go.

        • David

           /  July 15, 2018

          Did you not see the second explosion Corky, while one can always criticize after the fact and be all gung ho but the mine was literally blowing up it would have been insane to go in and have more dead people.
          The Thai comparison is just so totally different.

          • Gezza

             /  July 15, 2018

            Yes but Corky’s main point is that we are going to have an Islamic terrorist attack any day now, & then he will be proven right. And all the other stuff he wrote was just something to wrap around that.

          • Gezza

             /  July 15, 2018

            What unkind soul has downticked me for that? 😳

          • Corky

             /  July 15, 2018

            Er, no. The Islamic terrorist attack senario is an extrapolation of the way officials reacted to the Pike River explosion.

            Unfortunately I assumed Gifford and Dave would know I wasn’t meaning rescue workers should rush in 10 minutes after the first explosion. He says the Thai comparison is totally different. I disagree. What is different is the way officials reacted.

            So the question needs to be ask.? What would have happened should the the Thai cave scenario have happened in New Zealand?

            I think the rescue would have gone ahead, but I also think precious days would have been lost as our officials wasted time forming this and that committee to report back; to liaise and consider what options Committee A has suggested to the coordinating task force on the ground, but answering only to the Minister in charge….and on it would go.

          • Gezza

             /  July 15, 2018

            Yes. I agree with that bit, except that I think that now a proper entry & rescue plan is being developed by truly competent people long after the time when it’s a rescue. The cop in charge at the time (Superintendent Gary Knowles?) was a disaster himself.

          • Gezza

             /  July 15, 2018

            A couple of relevant differences I can think of (there are many more – some already mentioned above) with the Thai mine rescue was that it was a cave. No organisation is responsible for managing it. That meant of necessity people went straight to the logical people who knew best what to do – pumping the mine water, sending scuba equipped spelunkers in, etc. There were no pre-existing layers of people nominally in charge by virtue of their legal responsibilities to interfere in the proceedings. It wrote a text book for any future similar scenarios. And someone with the required skills who knew the dangers still died in the rescue attempt.

  2. chrism56

     /  July 15, 2018

    Griff is right. The police did the right thing not allowing anyone to re-enter the mine. After the multiple explosions, there will be very little to recover. And they will probably kill more people finding that out.

  3. George

     /  July 15, 2018

    So, they’re going to spend millions to recover a few body parts from underground so they can put them back into the ground?

    • What a great use of taxpayer money.

      One woman was delighted that ‘this government’ will be paying for this. No,, dear, the people of NZ will be paying for it and going without other things to do so. But who cares about hospital waiting lists as long as a few crumbs of bone are recovered at about $1,000,000 each ?

  4. David

     /  July 15, 2018

    The re-entry was always a dumb election bribe with taxpayers cash and it turns out to be much more expensive than they thought, well hell that is unusual who saw that coming.
    Pleasingly this will backfire on Little and his disgraceful politicking this tragedy.

  5. Trevors_Elbow

     /  July 15, 2018

    The cost of political mischief making in Opposition is borne by tax payers in this instance.

    I have deep sympathy for the families of the dead miners. Coal mining employed a number of my maternal family for a number of decades…

    BUT in all likelihood no bodies are left in the Pike Pit.

    Massive explosions would have shredded the miners firstly and then Methane burns at 1900 degrees Celsius, bodies incinerate and are reduced to ash at under a 1000 degrees Celsius….. and prolonged burn would have turn everything to ash…

    NZ as a country is spending millions of dollars on this exercise to placate a few dozen people, which could be spent on education or health services for the living, plus the opportunity cost of numerous civil servants and Ministers time spent on this task which could be redirected to somewhere more productive. It is unjustified and something I am completely opposed to

    • David

       /  July 15, 2018

      Good post, I believe most would agree with this.

  6. Patzcuaro

     /  July 15, 2018

    Both major parties have used Pike River as a political football, promising to recover the bodies or re enter. It just seems a waste of money and will probably run over the new budgets.

  7. Callum

     /  July 15, 2018

    So are they saying the families experts who said it could be done and had a plan, didn’t actually have a plan ready to go? When Winston said he would be first in there was actually no plan that he could lead? I am so surprised….

  8. Gezza

     /  July 15, 2018

    On 1ewes last night a lady who was one of the families I think and had been at the meeting said, without any doubt, that New Zealanders WANT the government to get their men’s bodies back to them. I think the cost being mentioned was $27 million.

    And I just thought:

    No. I don’t. They’re gone. I’m truly sorry for your loss. But you’re no more able to connect with them buried in a cemetery than buried in the mine, if there even ARE any bits of remains of charred & rotted body structure of what once was them.

    My late wife’s ashes are now somewhere among the stream gravel, & dustier bits out in the sea or spread over the seafloor. Where she wanted them to be.

    I have her photos on the wall & her favourite trinkets all around the house. I’ve got past the wrenching shock & grief of the person I loved most in the world & who reciprocated that love just being utterly gone. I can picture her clearly in my mind & talk to her there any time I want to. This money would be better spent on the living.

    And I really think, faced with the knowledge of the risk, effort, and cost to now enter their tomb, look for, find, and hopefully retrieve what’s left these men’s ashes, many New Zealanders would agree with my view.

    • My husband was buried, but I sincerely hope that had he been incinerated in a mine, I would not want so many millions spent to recover some ashes. His religious views made burial non-negotiable and I didn’t grudge the money. Well, I did because I thought that the cost was very high for a hole in the ground. A late neigbour’s ashes were sneaked into a family grave by his son and daughter in law with our spade (!) as they knew his views on these things and he didn’t want a stone, anyway.

      The money could be a memorial fund of some kind and do good for the living. Then the miners memories would live forever.

      These people seem to think that they will find closure (that overworked and meaningless phrase) if the ashes are brought out. Nonsense, Gezza and everyone else who’s had a bereavement can vouch for the fact that this won’t happen. It doesn’t help with grieving at all if the body is there. They know that these men are in the mountain; let that be their tomb and not waste all that money. I don’t believe that NZ wants it. Not at that price.

    • In a similar vein, for reasons not of my making I was prevented from attending my mother’s funeral in England. But every time I look out of the sitting room window I see the garden seat she would sit on with her cup of tea watching the ducks on the pond when she visited us at the age of 96, on the back of which is a lovely poem written by her grand-daughter, and I am filled with a simple warmth that no funeral could ever replicate.

  9. Zedd

     /  July 15, 2018

    The more ‘news’ that comes out.. the more it seems that something was likely ‘covered up’ by the perceived ongoing excuses to re-enter the mine. This new Govt.have committed to doing this & they should stop listening to ‘naysayers’ who are only concerned that it will cost tax-payer funds & just get on with it ASAP !!

    • Gezza

       /  July 15, 2018

      We already know this was a badly managed mine & that it must have been full of methane @ the required concentration to explode & then continue to do so. The real reason nobody has been found guilty & prosecuted is because so many people in so many places were, in the end, complicit in this tragedy.

      Through their own actions and inactions, starting with the the government & its outdated & inadequate mine safety regulations, their underfunding of the Department responsible fir the Mines Inspectorate, & going right through to individual miners sometimes breaking rules, the mine management system, & the mine management.

      Everybody at various points took risks they shouldn’t have.

      If the mine had been properly overseen, properly worked in at all times, & properly managed, this would most likely not have happened.

      There will be nothing learned from entering the mine that isn’t already known to be one or more of many causes of mine explosions when the entire system for managing mines was broken.

      • Alas, it did happen and nothing can change that, although one might be forgiven for thinking that it will if they go back in.

  10. Jay3

     /  July 15, 2018

    The Pike River mine re-entry has always appeared to be primarily about shoring up Labour votes on the West Coast. It is a cynical exploitation of a tragedy. Unfortunately, the $1 billion a year regional development fund is also showing all the hallmarks of developing into a slush fund to boost NZ First and Labour votes in key regional electorates. And, the light rail plan in Auckland, now going ahead unsupported by any credible business case, appears to be mostly about rewarding the electorates of Mt Roskill and Mt Albert for their continuing support of Labour. It will be years before it is extended to the airport and will be far too slow to be an effective means of airline passenger transport. A pattern of pork barrel politics seems to have developed rather quickly with this government.

    • Strong For Life

       /  July 17, 2018

      I believe it is also an attempt to salve the conscience of Mr Little. The fellow is such a hypocrite. Today, he is damning of the health and safety standards of the mine. Back when he was the union secretary he praised the health and safety of the mine. What version of the story is right Mr Little? Taxpayers are paying heavily, cost blowouts will continue, to ease Mr Little’s guilty conscience and false promises.