Work Continues to Extinguish Fire at Pike River

This aerial photo taken on November 30, 2010, shows flames coming out of a ventilation shaft at the Pike
River coal mine near Greymouth on New Zealand’s West Coast. (Photo courtesy of Reuters).
Miners are placing a temporary seal on the Pike River portal after 29 miners perished in a series of mine explosions, the first of which occurred on November 19, 2010. The current plan is to use a Gorniczy Agregat Gasniczy (GAG) jet engine to inject inert gas into the mine to extinguish the mine fire. A fourth, significant explosion occurred at Pike River on November 28. No one was injured. This explosion follows a less violent third explosion on 26th and appears to have been stronger than the second explosion that occurred on the 24th.

Recovery operations at the mine, which located in a remote region near the town of Atarau on New Zealand's South Island, continue under the control of the NZ Police working with industry experts and Pike River.

Following a meeting of the Pike River Board, board Chairman John Dow said, “Recovery of the 29 men lost in the Pike River mine remained the company’s top priority. The board, however, also had now to consider the company’s wider situation. It is imperative that the company be able to assess the level of damage to the mine as soon as possible in order to reach meaningful conclusions about the options available to us.” This would involve undertaking any repairs, replacements and rebuilding work and an assessment of the commercial feasibility of resuming operations.

“None of that, however, can happen until the recovery operation is successfully completed and we can go back underground safely,” Dow said. “Once we can get back underground, Pike will be an advanced development project, given that all surface infrastructure remains intact, including surface facilities, pipelines, the coal preparation plant, roading and rail load-out facilities at Ikamatua.”

Initial reports said that shortly before the blast the mine lost power, which may have caused ventilation problems. That may have contributed to a buildup of gas underground. The mine accesses the coal seam, which lies at a depth of about 600 ft, through a 1.4-mile tunnel.

As featured in Womp 2010 Vol 10 -