Pike River re-entry may be further delayed

Yesterday from Andrew Little:  Significant step in Pike River drift re-entry

Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little has received the report on re-entering the Pike River drift following nine months of intensive work by Te Kāhui Whakamana Rua Tekau Mā Iwa Pike River Recovery Agency.

The Agency has identified three safe and feasible re-entry options to recover the drift:

  • Drive a small tunnel to create a ventilation circuit;
  • Single entry, using the existing main drift access tunnel as the sole means to ventilate the main drift;
  • Single entry with a large diameter borehole.

“I want to acknowledge the work of the Pike River Recovery Agency in getting us to this point. Safety of everyone is fundamental for re-entry, as is the care needed to forensically examine what happened at Pike River to ensure it never happens again.

“I am satisfied that the Agency has been robust in developing the options. Workshops have included technical experts, and partners including New Zealand Police, Mines Rescue, WorkSafe and the Department of Conservation.

“The Pike River Families and their representatives have been also included at every stage. The families have shown extraordinary patience and tenacity, and their contribution has been crucial.

“The explosion at Pike River Mine on 19 November 2010 was a national tragedy. Today we are one step closer to – finally – bringing closure to the families.

“It is my responsibility as Minister to carefully weigh the options, alongside Rob Fyfe’s independent advice. I take that responsibility very seriously.

“I do not intend to make further public comment before a decision has been taken, which is expected to occur by the middle of November,” said Andrew Little.

Little has also talked to NZ herald about it: Andrew Little receives report on options for Pike River mine re-entry

It is looking less likely that any re-entry to the Pike River mine drift will happen before Christmas, Pike River Re-entry Minister Andrew Little says.

Little told the Herald today he would make a final decision on whether it was even feasible to re-enter the drift after reading the report and receiving advice from independent ministerial adviser Rob Fyfe.

Little told a parliamentary committee in June it was possible re-entry could be started by the end of this year but today he pulled back from that.

“I understand that is looking less likely now and it would be the early part of next year,” he said.

But he would give a better timeline on the operation to breach the seal if and when he announced a decision to go in.

“When they’ve had the various experts, including the families’ experts, come together, the conclusion of each of those sessions is that this is feasible. But I’ve got to be satisfied,” Little said.

Little has also yet to ask Cabinet to ask for $10-15 million on top of the up to $23m already budgeted for the recovery.

Other ministers have said that ‘priority’ policy implementation has to wait for the next budget.

This is taking a long time and a lot of money. I really wonder if it is all worth it – and worth the risk. Sure, some families want the remains of miners removed, but it is hard to see whether that will change much.

There are also hopes that the cause of the explosions will be found but that could require a far more extensive investigation than is practical.

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25 Comments

  1. Ray

     /  November 1, 2018

    Where are all the people who thought 25 million was a waste of money when we had a democratic referendum on a possible new flag?
    This as just as everybody knows will not bring closure and is highly unlikely to find a direct cause of the explosion unless a lighter is found next to one of the victims (it is worth noting how many times illegal items were removed from the miners).

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  November 1, 2018

      I agree. I feel sad for the families but I think this is a mistake and that to be honest they expect too much of taxpayers to spend all this money to recover what will now be “human remains” only to put them in the ground. If any remains are found, these are not their loved ones, and putting them back into the ground, the sky or the sea makes no difference to what becomes of their atoms.

      A plaque or headstone or photo or treasured item or even clear video of them in their mind that conjures up the face and the beloved memory of their loved one they can lovingly smile at, and express their never-forgotten love to, any time, anywhere.

      Reply
    • lurcher1948

       /  November 1, 2018

      read the book,the place was a tomb waiting to happen

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  November 1, 2018

        Yup. Deregulation and gross understaffing and utter managerial incompetence in the DoL which had responsibility for mine oversight and regulation was a major factor and why this side of things keeps getting skipped over and buried. All the company did was happily work within a poorly regulated & managed environment of the kind Al favours and says hey no worries, business knows best and if they screw up they’ll just go out of business and a competitor will replace them. “Ban bureaucrats: they inhibit the flowering of the natural goodness of the free market”.

        Reply
        • Gerrit

           /  November 1, 2018

          Not just naked capitalism at fault. Labour government, EPMU union, workers and management all colluded in the failure.

          “The 1999–2008 Labour government was complicit in the disaster. It approved the construction of the mine in a thoroughly deregulated environment that allowed businesses to operate however they saw fit. The Department of Labour’s specialist mining inspectorate had been dismantled in the 1990s. By 2010, just two inspectors remained, responsible for about 1,000 worksites, including tunnels and quarries.

          Labour MP Damien O’Connor later admitted that he had been warned about the increased risk of a mining disaster because of deregulation, but took no action.

          In a revealing decision, the new government appointed Andrew Little the Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry. At the time of the explosion, Little was national secretary of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), which had about 70 members at Pike River. Despite being aware of workers’ concerns about safety, the union did not organise an industrial campaign and remained silent about the life-threatening conditions at the mine.

          The union worked hand-in-hand with the company to ensure its operations were not disrupted. For days after the disaster, Little defended Pike River Coal’s safety record, telling the media there had been “nothing unusual” about the mine and it had taken “great care going into production.”

          http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1801/S00010/government-seeks-to-contain-outrage-over-pike-river-disaster.htm

          So whilst the company was complicit, so were the then government, the union, site inspectors and workers.

          You cant tell me that the workers were not aware of how bad the ventilation system was.

          Maybe we need to apportion blame to DOC as well. They stymied the drilling of the ventilation shafts on DOC land to allow through flow ventilation of what was a very gassy mine.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  November 1, 2018

            Blame ultimately lies with whoever approved the mine and did not ensure it complied with safety requirements at all times. But you are right, everybody who could have protected these miners, including some of the miners themselves, seems to have contributed to this disaster. And I think it should all be over. Everything else that happens here on is miners’ families I think in some ways wanting to punish the government and thus indirectly the taxpayers of this country because they are so hurt and angry and, in some ways understandably perhaps, just bitter at the whole universe, like I was when my late wife died.

            Reply
    • Corky

       /  November 1, 2018

      I think it will bring closure, Ray. Once the mine is reentered and every possibility tried, I’m sure most families will let it go. Then the mine can be sealed. There cannot be closure unless the mine is entered.

      However, should bodies be found.. we have a new ball game. One that will cost National big time.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  November 1, 2018

        That is senseless.

        The mine itself is most unlikely to be entered, from the sound of it, and it is extremely unlikely that anything remotely resembling a body will be found. It’s a bit like expecting a cremated body to still look like a ‘body’.

        Closure is highly overrated. People don’t stop grieving just like that.

        The views of the families who do NOT want all this have been ignored.

        Reply
      • Corky

         /  November 1, 2018

        Mine=Drift.

        Reply
  2. Gerrit

     /  November 1, 2018

    This is the start of the back pedaling. All they are talking about is entering the drift. Mine entry is far far away in the future and lies behind a massive rockfall. The seat of the four explosions, the miners remains and the forensic evidence to apportion blame are behind the rockfall.

    Public risk assessment evaluated by Andrew Little may for the physical safety off the Winston Peters led re-entry team, but he will privately be doing a real risk assessment for re-entry on how much political capital will be burned through.

    Entering the drift and finding nothing will be a risk to be assessed versus political capital expenditure.

    I honestly don’t think the mine proper will ever be re-entered. They will get into the drift for a “feel good” exploration to recoup some political capital and after that the mine will be sealed as judged to difficult and dangerous.

    CoL saving face is what this mine re-entry is all about.

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  November 1, 2018

      ”I honestly don’t think the mine proper will ever be re-entered. ”

      Agree.

      Reply
  3. George

     /  November 1, 2018

    Judging by the videod explosions and the long period of fires I doubt that there will be anything but ash and a few pieces of major bone remaining.
    All this expense and what will be proven at the end ?

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  November 1, 2018

      That the families took their revenge.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  November 1, 2018

        That the unions had some free advertising and Andrew Little is a plonker.

        Reply
    • High Flying Duck

       /  November 1, 2018

      That National received correct advice and rather than stringing along grieving families, were up-front that nothing could be done.

      Reply
  4. Zedd

     /  November 1, 2018

    Im pretty sure Lab. promised to ‘Reenter the mine & attempt recovery of bodies, if possible’ as part of their campaign 2017. They can hardly just throw up their hands now & say “sorry, it all just too hard/expensive’.. as Natl said !

    These families need some closure, on what really happened ; not just a mass grave stone over the mine entrance ! :/ 😦

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  November 1, 2018

      I would be very surprised if anyone would be much the wiser.

      Closure keeps being repeated like a mantra. Nothing will change, the men will be just as dead, money will have been squandered that could have been put to better use.

      Reply
      • Zedd

         /  November 1, 2018

        … and you now all this; because; Natl/right-leaning MSM keep repeating it OR do you have other info. the rest of us have missed ?

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  November 1, 2018

          Don’t be silly, we all know that bodies subjected to that heat are cremated, and that the mine has a wall of fallen rock in front of it.

          Have you never seen a cremated body being scattered ? It’s ash and fragments. Nothing that could possibly identify the person, and, as I assume that they don’t go in naked, no bits of clothes, either.

          Reply
          • Zedd

             /  November 1, 2018

            ‘Have you never seen a cremated body being scattered ? It’s ash and fragments.’ sez Kitty

            Yes Kitty.. My Mum & my Sister
            BUT at least we were certain what had happened & that they were in fact cremated & turned to ashes !

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  November 1, 2018

              Well, what on earth do you think that the bodies in the mine will be like ?

            • Zedd

               /  November 1, 2018

              ‘Well, what on earth do you think that the bodies in the mine will be like ?’ sez kitty

              I can only presume.. as you are in fact doing

              BUT there has been a recent news item about families, finally getting the remains of fallen War soldiers back from SE Asian war graves.. was that just a silly waste of time & money too ?

          • Zedd

             /  November 1, 2018

            btw: there are still ‘hints & allegations’ that OSH or other things were ‘covered up’ at Pike River & Natl decided ‘nothing more to see here ?’

            The families of these men, still want answers & methinks they deserve to get them. :/.

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  November 1, 2018

              With a methane explosion, temps can reach 1200oC and more, good luck with finding anything that’s been through that.

              The concrete pad was 150oC and firemen had to keep away.

              I can’t see that the families will know much more than they did before, and many millions will have been spent that could have been better used in the area for the living who have been left jobless. A great memorial would be to start something that would let these people earn a living.

              What good will it do ? It won’r bring the men back to life or make it not have happened.

            • Gerrit

               /  November 1, 2018

              If National was “covering up” evidence than it suited the previous Labour government very well. The Labour government, the company, the union and the workers allowed the neglect in OSH as well.

              As I said earlier, they will not enter the mine proper where the explosions happened and the miners were. To get ventilation past the rockfall a tthe end of the drift would require drilling ventilation shafts from DOC land above the worthless mine. Something DOC did not allow from the start (hence the substandard circular ventilation system versus a proper through flow one) and something that most likely will not be granted this time either.

              The drift only will be entered (possibly recover those robots whilst they are there) but that is all.

              The families will be no closer to answers than what they know today.

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