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Pike River tunnel re-entry project begins

World Coal,

The project to re-enter and explore the main tunnel of the former Pike River Mine has begun, with personnel and a helicopter from the New Zealand Defence Force on site to lift material from the top of the mine ventilation shaft.

On 19 November 2010, an explosion at the mine in Greymouth, New Zealand, killed 29 miners. An investigation into the mine explosion by the Royal Commission in 2012 concluded that the deaths could have been prevented, blaming lax safety standards for the disaster.

In September this year, the New Zealand government approved conditional funding of a staged plan to re-enter and explore the tunnel up to a rock fall approximately 2.3 km from the mine entrance. The project, managed by Solid Energy, is subject to on-going safety and technical assessment at each stage.

Royal New Zealand Air Force and New Zealand Army personnel are removing structures including fan ducting and generator sets to clear the ventilation shaft area for stage one of the project – filling the remaining 50-60 m of the shaft to ensure full control of the mine atmosphere.

Air Component Commander Mike Yardley says the New Zealand Defence Force has the capability to respond at short notice for these types of operations and this is the first time one of their NH90 helicopters has been used to support another government agency. “The NH90 has twice the lifting capacity of civilian helicopters available to Solid Energy and therefore we are pleased to be able to provide assistance for this important task,” Yardley explained.

Solid Energy Chairman, Mark Ford, says the start of operation is significant for the Pike River family members who have been waiting for a long time for such a development. “We are pleased to have reached this start point and to have the support of the New Zealand Defence Force in clearing the site,” said Ford. “While Solid Energy is managing the project, it is very much a collaborative effort, with funding from the government and the expertise of many individuals and organisations who have come together to plan it and carry it out safely”.

Adapted from press release by Katie Woodward

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