A detailed feasibility plan will be drafted about re-entry to the Pike River Mine, after input from technical experts who gathered in Greymouth this week.
“We had years and years of wisdom and experience in these leading technical mining and associated experts from around the world, and we were able to make some real progress on challenges to consider when re-entering the mine to recover the drift access tunnel,” Pike River Recovery Agency Chief Executive Dave Gawn says.
The experts on geotechnical engineering, mining ventilation, underground coal fires, mine sealing, health and safety, forensics, and facilitation from as far away as the UK and Australia, were joined by members of the Family Reference Group, New Zealand Mines Rescue, and WorkSafe, as well as Agency staff.
A conceptual plan was developed over the four days of the workshop.
“As you can imagine, the discussions have been very robust. While there’s still an awful lot we don’t know about the state of what’s in the mine itself, we can plan for different contingencies and work out what critical information is required to proceed at each stage,” Mr Gawn says.
All experts agreed one of the basic principles was that the re-entry would take place in fresh air. Discussions included management of ventilation flow over the rockfall and breaching the 30 metre seal.
Family Reference Group representatives Bernie Monk and Anna Osborne were enthused about the positivity in the room.
“From what we’ve heard, there’s absolutely no reason why it can’t be achieved,” Anna says.
Interested parties will be consulted on the conceptual plan, and it will also undergo an independent technical review, and review by the Minister’s independent adviser Rob Fyfe.
The resulting feasible methodology for safely re-entering the drift, including associated risks and costs, would then need to be confirmed and approved by the Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-Entry Hon Andrew Little.
After a procurement process currently underway, the preferred supplier(s) for physically carrying out any approved work will also be involved in detailed recovery planning, as well as mine sealing and rehabilitation works at the completion of the project.
“There’s a lot happening towards achieving our objectives of safely re-entering the Pike River Mine drift, trying to ascertain what happened in November 2010 to cause the explosion which ultimately meant the death of 29 men, and to recover any bodies found. We are working in close partnership with the Family Reference Group so they can see the efforts being made and are part of our process,” Mr Gawn says.
“I’m confident we’re on track,” he says.
The procurement process underway on the Government Electronic Tender Site (GETS) is to find a specialist supplier to both assist with developing a detailed plan to carry out the work, and to undertake the approved manned re-entry and recovery works. The supplier is also likely to be required to undertake mine sealing and rehabilitation works at the completion of the project.