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Pike river facts needed

Written By: - Date published: 11:58 am, January 20th, 2011 - 27 comments
Categories: Mining, police - Tags:

The dearth of solid information on the Pike River situation and the contradictory statements from the government have naturally led to suspicion that we’re not being told the whole story. The government has been caught flat-footed by the blowback. Now, finally, the Police are going to release their technical information, allowing independent assessments.

The Daily News (not online, thanks PB) editorial sums up the situation:

“The Government told me it was not a money issue. . . everyone is telling us different stories and I want to get to the bottom of it,” Mr Monk said.

Opposition leader Phil Goff says John Key has passed the buck, and he in turn has been accused of making a statement which is “a bit sad and a bit cynical under the circumstances” by Mining Minister Gerry Brownlee. But Mr Goff is quite right to underline the level of dissatisfaction which is now evident.

The police effectively elected to call off the search, just as they have done many times when looking for missing people.

But the ball should not be left in the receivers’ hands. Given the Government’s considerable presence immediately after the tragedy, it would seem prudent for it to also take some responsibility for leading the way in decision making now.

I’ve never understood why the fate of the recover operation was suddenly dropped in the hands of the receivers, who are just accountants after all, and why they were given just two working days to formulate a plan. But it’s not just in the last week that the government has been unwilling to front up with the truth – it goes right back to the start when we were led to have hope, contrary to the evidence, that the miners were alive after the first explosion and then, on the basis of what we don’t know, that they were definitely dead after the second one.

The Herald too, has joined the call for solid facts, not PR aimed at our emotions and decisions delivered from on-high:

“Two months on, we have yet to receive any information that might help all concerned come to terms with what has happened and what realistically can be expected.

One of the first things the Government should do when it gets back into gear for the year is to start getting some useful information on Pike River into the public domain.

The whole country deserves to be learning by now a lot more about this mine and its operations. Some people know all about it and must have a very good idea what probably happened to cause the disaster. It is time we started hearing the hard facts.

When you deny people information, you disempower them. And that’s exactly what the government did with its out-of-the-blue decision to break John Key’s promise to do ‘whatever it takes’ to get the bodies out. No clear explanation or background information was given. Indeed, Key and Brownlee tried to avoid talking to the media at all.

Now, the police have finally worked it out and are going to release their technical information. Whether it will satisfy the experts and the families that abandoning the recovery is necessary for technical reasons and not simply to save costs or not, at least they will be given the information and power to form and debate that view themselves.

PS. Red Alert has more on the confusion generated by Key and Brownlee here

27 comments on “Pike river facts needed ”

  1. I have paused to reflect on what I think has been reported in the media on Pike River, I have also considered what the main issues with the recovery operation are.

    Explosions (date & time).
    19 November 2010 3:44 pm
    24 November 2010 2:37 pm
    26 November 2010 3:39 pm
    28 November 2010 2: pm

    Whittal said of the second explosion “the explosion was not caused by any body working in or around the mine [17]

    24 November 2010, 15 cm diameter, 162 – metre long hole by bore drill breaks into mine.
    (Not sure when started or time it was completed).
    Undetectable traces of oxygen found.

    Mine Ventilation shaft
    The mine ventilation shaft does not have road access.
    The mine ventalition shaft was capped on 12 December 2010.

    First robot sent into mine at 6 am 23 November 2010 (breaks down at 8 am) restarted on 24 November 2010 and stops at 1 km mark.
    Second robot sent into mine 7:12 am 24 November 2010 (think it stopped at 1500 metres).
    24 November 2010 the Australian robot arrives.
    26 November 2010 the Australian robot ventures 1575 metres into the mine, destruction in main shaft detected.
    11 January 2011 one mine robot on stand by, using it would mean removing the GAG machine and doing a full assessment. (Most specialised mine rescue robot in the world is not on site).

    GAG & Floxal nitrogen generator
    1 December 2010 GAG starts pumping carbon dioxide into mine.
    GAG machine had to be switched off on occasion and the hill side evacuated because of unsafe gas.
    19 December nitrogen generator/s arrive/s which works along side the GAG machine.

    Foam sealant
    12 January 2011 foam sealant pumped into cracks to allow the GAG and Floxal machine to operate more effciently in reducing gas levels.

    A too sudden abrupt end to an operation which finally appeared to stabilise. I feel sorry for the consultants who had made such progress and disappointment for the families because a new phase was about to start.

    Who really pulled the plug?

    • Swampy 1.1

      what plug

      the Gag is still there on standby for another week or so

      police said they would be working at site another 7-8 weeks with the nitrogen still pumping in.

      its largely symbolic The recivers had to be more responsible for whatts happening down there and the police have said they wont try to recover the bodies

      the work at the mine continues they are just not trying to open up the mine to get in
      they shifted there focus to making the mine stable while sealed up.

      • Treetop 1.1.1

        The plug is the required resources and there is a dollar tag to it. If there wasn’t the GAG would not be going back. As well the Androus Wolverine robort should be at Pike River mine, not some crap which may have caused the second explosion. I will not exclude there being a better robort available or a device to clear the mine as some things are classified and therefore they do not exist.

        Yes it is largely symbolic and I add COWARDLY to the way the operation is now being directed and based on the recovery of dollars.

        Interest will spike and wane. As for the inquiry I do not want to see a cap put on the dollar cost of getting to the truth.

        • Swampy

          mining experst like Cliff knew about the Andros robot they did not recommend it because its cleartly obvious like the australian Numbat this technologys at very early stages of development. the Andros robot got very limited use in a underground mine accident in the States a few years ago. the andros mine robot is basically the same robot platform as out defence robots that did go in (the two of them. all we know about the andros is the maufacturers promotional blurb.

          the mining industry in the US is mostly private if there was enough development of robotic technology also largely private it would have been deployed also the US Goverment has made its technology available in disastrers to another countrys without hesitation (like the Kursk submarine) if they had anything they could of got out to us they would done at the time.
          current limitation of the andros is 5000 feet but Pike has a entrance tunnel that is longer than this so it couldnt have got inside the main mine area.

          I think the polices decision is based on realitys its going to take a lot more work to get the mine to something that can be reopened it will take months to cool down and they have been shown the roofs collapsed or something that would take machinery to excavate inside the practicalt reality its going to be very difficult to recover any bodyes . reopening the mine might not happen for a long time if at all. getting inside practically is a long slow process requires the methane all taken out and good ventilation which may be too hard to achieve presently

          • Treetop

            Professor Robin Murphy is not surprised that the army bomb – disposal robot failed and that the most likely replacement would be V2.


            Getting into the mine at 5000 meters is a big ask, but getting into the mine is the best way to try and establish the cause of the explosions. Had V2 gone in instead of robot 1 & 2 and the Aussie robot, explosion 2, 3 & 4 may not have occurred.

            I think that our defence force do a good job considering the lack of resources they have.

            I have got to this point, the focus has to be on the 29 families getting the answers to all their questions from inquiries and for the government to front up with the truth that because Pike River Coal went into recievership this resulted in the police having to take over all costs and resposibility due to a serious event occurring and that the government still needs to have the responsibility and not accountants with a calculator.

            Oh had the GOVERNMENT owned the mine, the operation would not finish until the families and public of NZ said it was finished.

            • Swampy

              this news article says the wolverine was sent to Nz soon after the mine blew up

              how do you know it is not here now

              claiming that government ownershp would have kept the operation running is nonsense/. the govtt has plenty opportunities with the police for the operations they have done. to say that is just rubbish.

              • Treetop

                The facts are what matter, not point scoring.

                “However, the rescuers decided there was no need for the robot after the explosion.”

                This sort of decision making does not fill me with confidence. Neither does the rescue operation (5 million) having to come out of the police budget. How are the police going to run the police when they have to pay for some cowards who just thought they could go into recievership? And what REALLY has got under my skin, is: the Pike River owners will have the option to come back and open the mine and recover the bodies and this government are allowing it.

            • Swampy

              Had the rescuers gone in on foot like every armchair export said they should they would have been blown up.

              the police got all the advise from all the experts. it is damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

              on the balance of probability therefore the police has probably got it about right.

              the Andros are tracked robots. if they come into ground conditions anything less than relatively even and flat they can not climb obstacles like rockfalls. You can see that the robot would be stuffed if it got to that. when it went to Sago it bogged down in mud.

              • Colonial Viper

                the police got all the advise from all the experts. it is damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

                on the balance of probability therefore the police has probably got it about right.

                What advice exactly was given to the police? Where is the expert report? What were the experts recommendations tot he police, word for word?

                And why is this detail being kept secret from the public and from the families?

              • Treetop

                Did the police get advice from Professor Robin Murphy? Has NASA been consulted by the police? Are/were the police the right people to contact/coordinate the best minds in the world. What worked and didn’t work and could work and why and why not also needs to be established?

                The Aussie robot reached 1575 meters after the second explosion. The fact is that had V2 gone in the second explosion may have been averted.

                No one is saying that rescers had to or have to enter the mine until it is safe to do so.

                It has come down to $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ on what happens next.

            • Treetop

              Correction 5000 feet not meters. However still two thirds of the length of the tunnel. 2.3 km = 7545 feet.

              Came across this today and have posted as this gives an insight into the construction of the Pike River mine.


    • Swampy 1.2

      Change of focus from unrealistic to acheivable

      police decide the mine can not be entered safely and the damage underground means bodies could not be recovered

      work there fore shifted to making the mine safe while sealed up
      and the receivers made responsible for re opening the mine in the future and recovering bodies if they do so

      the stablisation plan continues and i think the police change will be accepted in time

      we all await the results of enquries

      • Colonial Viper 1.2.1

        Change of focus from unrealistic to acheivable

        police decide the mine can not be entered safely and the damage underground means bodies could not be recovered


        Where is the expert report that they based their decisions on. Where is the DETAIL. What has changed in the last month? Especially when it is said that conditions in the mine have stabilised now, why shut the op down.

  2. Unviable traces of oxygen found is what I mean.

  3. I smell a cover up over just how fast and loose PRC, under Whittal, had let safety, equipment and training standards slip…

    …especially with regards to that kid who wasn’t due to start work til Monday but went in on the Friday ?

    Joseph Dunbar celebrated his 17th birthday Thursday, just one day before beginning his new job at the Pike River Mine. According to his mother Pip Timms, Dunbar was originally supposed to start work Monday, but he was reportedly so excited after an on-site tour that his boss let him begin Friday.


    Excited ?… for fucks sake, mines are death traps, as is any high risk job, waiting to be sprung on the unwary and the easily excitable…

    …he shouldn’t have just been able to rock up and go in if he wasn’t an employee yet or had the proper training and inductions ?

    I’d like some facts on how a 17 yr old can do that and what sort of boss, employer and ultimately gov’t lets it happen ?

    captcha : remind

  4. Rich 4

    allowing independent assessments. by opinionated twatcocks with zero knowledge of mining, engineering or anything else. Great.

    • Pascal's bookie 4.1

      allowing independent assessments. by opinionated twatcocks with zero knowledge of mining, engineering or anything else

      Sounds pretty stupid to me Dick. Not sure why you think that would be for the best.

      Keeping it all under wraps guaranteed that would happen though, so I guess that’s why you’re a bit sad eh?

      Have a biscuit and a cup of milo mate. Watch a bit of tele. You’ll be right.

  5. Swampy 5

    Flogging.Dead.Horse. (If you’ll pardon the expression)

    I think the lack of response indicates everyone has had enough of this subject.

  6. Colonial Viper 6

    Loss of mining inspection programme compromised Pike River

    The Chinese are catching up, we are falling behind, says an expert advisor.


    Big business might have saved a few dollars by cutting down on regulation. But put dozens of lives at risk and closed down a $300M mine.

    That is how short sighted these “business men” are.

    Mr Feickert is working with the Chinese government and companies on a mining safety programme.

    “They have a lot more serious problems than we have in New Zealand, and I have to say they have a more effective inspectorate than we have at the moment. That’s a bit of a sad comment really because they’ve gone forward and we’ve gone backwards.”

    An inspector at Pike River would have asked about draining the gas buildups before allowing men into the mine, then pushed for installing a proper drainage system, he said.

    “A chief inspector and his inspectors would have said ‘Look guys, get that sorted out otherwise there will be problems’.”

    It was not right that Prime Minister John Key was making decisions about mine safety because he was not an expert in the area, Mr Feickert said.

    “No wonder the families of the 29 dead are furious. So they should be.”

    • Treetop 6.1

      “We don’t know exactly how the gas explosion occurred because nobody’s been able to go in and have a look.” See above link.

      I’d like to know what Mr Feickert thinks about the mine ventilation shaft not having road access?

      I have now got an approx start and a finish time for when the 15 cm diameter, 162 metre bore hole broke into the mine. Drilling started late on 21 November 2010 and finished at 7 am on 24 November 2010.

      I’d like to know what Mr Frickert thinks about what caused the second explosion (the massive one) on 24 November 2010?

      Can Mr Frickert exclude the wrong robots (robot 1 and robot 2) going into the mine and the bore hole reaching the mine as not being a cause of the second explosion?

      Robot three was the wrong robot as well but went in after the second explosion.

    • Pete 6.2

      It was not right that Prime Minister John Key was making decisions about mine safety because he was not an expert in the area

      Just as well there’s no indication Key is making mine safety decisions then. The last review was in 2006. Presumably on the advice of mine experts. I wonder if Mr Feickert was involved then.

    • Swampy 6.3

      oh yeah no one ever dies in the state coal mines

      andrew little claimed “this would never of happended at a Solid energy mine”

      the regulatrory enviroment is the Governments responsibility. coal mining company s do not make there own regulations. they work under the mining inspectoate and regulations from Osh.

      the last comment is rubbish Key is not making decisions about the mines.

      do you have a mindset against private mining.

      • Colonial Viper 6.3.1

        the regulatrory enviroment is the Governments responsibility. coal mining company s do not make there own regulations. they work under the mining inspectoate and regulations from Osh.

        Yes the regulatory environment is the Government’s responsibility. And the free market slash regulation let business do whatever they want without oversight types in Govt over the last many years have frakked up.

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