A loader driven by former miner Russell Smith at the time of the Pike River Mine explosion has now been recovered from 1581m up the 2.3km drift access tunnel.
Loader being recovered from the Pike River Mine portal (courtesy NZ Police)
View a clip of the loader being towed to a storage area at the mine site (courtesy Stand with Pike).
The recovery of the loader went smoothly and to plan, and Pike River families were able to witness it being towed to a storage area, Chief Operations Officer Dinghy Pattinson says.
“We reached the loader at the end of last week, and then conducted a very deliberate and exacting forensic examination of the vehicle and operational zone, led from the surface by our NZ police investigation team. After that we were ready to hook it up using another loader and tow it down the drift to the portal and then to a covered area near the mine’s administration buildings for storage and further examination,” Mr Pattinson says.
While nearly 1600 metres of the 2300 drift has now been recovered, there is still around 600 metres of roadway in the Pit Bottom in Stone area will also need to be explored and examined when that area is reached.
“That’s the next big area of interest for us. Things have been progressing very well, and we’re hopeful that we might reach Pit Bottom in Stone by the end of August, however there are a lot of unknowns between then and now,” Mr Pattinson says.
Families of the Pike 29 were on site to witness the loader being recovered.
Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Hon Andrew Little visited the site today to receive an update on activities and meet with the Family Reference Group. MP for West Coast Tasman Hon Damien O’Connor also visited the site.
Police have taken possession of the loader and it will be retained as part of the ongoing investigation. While the investigation is ongoing Police are not in a position to comment further on the item, New Zealand Police Detective Inspector Pike River Mine Investigation Grant Wormald says.
All items recovered from the Pike River Mine drift are handed to the Police forensics team on site.