Pike River Mine re-entry closer

Pike River Recovery Agency boss Dave Gawn. Photo via NZ Herald
Pike River Recovery Agency boss Dave Gawn. Photo via NZ Herald
It seems ever more likely a team will head into the Pike River Mine after experts found no "showstopping" obstacles preventing re-entry.

Twenty-nine men were killed and trapped in the mine when it was rocked by a methane blast on November 19, 2010 but so far expert teams have been unable to reach the bodies of the men.

However, the Pike River Recovery Agency appointed by the Labour-led Government to examine the risks of re-entering the mine says it has so far turned up no "showstoppers".

"[The team of experts have] been poring over the ins-and-outs of each task required to enable re-entry via the three agreed options," agency chief executive Dave Gawn said.

"There's still a couple of stages to go before the agency pulls together its recommendation to the Minister, but I'm confident that at this stage, there's nothing I've heard that would mean re-entry is impossible."

The agency's findings are being closely followed by families of the 29 miners, who have long called on the Government to recover the bodies and investigate the explosion further.

The agency has so far developed three options for entering the mine.

These included:

• A single entry into the current "portal" with safety controls in place.

• Building a new 220-250-metre-long tunnel from up on the hill to connect with the "Pit Bottom in Stone" area

• A single entry with a new large-diameter borehole to provide a means of emergency escape

The agency's own technical mining experts have spent the last two weeks meeting independent miners, representatives of the miners' families and experts from WorkSafe, New Zealand Mines Rescue, and the Department of Conservation to discuss the risks.

Two further phases of the risk assessment process will include a review of the findings by technical experts on October 1 and a final review on October 16.

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