Technical mining experts gather in Greymouth for the next two weeks to look at risks involved in each of the three re-entry options the Pike River Recovery Agency is investigating for the Pike River Mine.

Photo from the first day of the Risk Assessment workshop

At work today on day one of the risk assessment workshop, from left, Kirk Neilson who works for the Pike River Recovery Agency, John Ewen from WorkSafe, Agency Chief Executive Dave Gawn, technical expert Stu McGregor and Detective Senior Sergeant Grant Collins seconded to the Agency from the New Zealand Police.

This fortnight includes technical expert advisors, independent miners, Agency staff, Family Reference Group members, plus representatives have been invited from WorkSafe, New Zealand Mines Rescue, Ngati Waewae, and the Department of Conservation.

A recent Task Analysis workshop enabled the Agency to draft an Operational Plan as a baseline for the workshop.  Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little signed off the Agency’s baseline concept plan for re-entry in July.

The three options being risk assessed are:

  1. Single entry – that is, going into the current portal with suitable safety controls in place. 
  2. Build a new small tunnel from up on the hill, from about 220 – 250 metres long, to connect with the “Pit Bottom in Stone” area, for ventilation and second egress
  3. Single entry with a new large diameter borehole to provide a means of emergency escape

At the end of this workshop, the Agency expects to have a very thorough understanding of all the risks inherent in the three re-entry options.

Two further phases of the risk assessment process will include a review of the findings of this workshop on 1 and 2 October; and a final review on 16 October.

Background:

There are two distinct areas of the mine: The mine drift and the mine workings. The drift is a 2.3km access tunnel from the portal (entrance) to the workings. The mine workings, where coal was being extracted, contain approximately 4.3km of tunnels. The workings are the last estimated location of the 29 workers who were in the mine when a methane explosion occurred in November 2010.  The workings are blocked by a large rockfall at the very end of the drift.

The Agency has been tasked by the Government to develop a safe plan to re-enter and recover the mine drift, to promote accountability for this tragedy, to give the Pike River families closure and to help prevent future mining tragedies.