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Pike River re-entry delayed

Written By: - Date published: 10:53 am, May 3rd, 2019 - 51 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, disaster, health and safety, labour, Mining, Unions, workers' rights - Tags: , , , ,

For very understandable reasons, concerns that a safe re-entry cannot be guaranteed, re-entry of the Pike River mine has been delayed.

And this decision has the backing of the Pike River families.

Television New Zealand has the details:

The Government, Agency and families involved in the Pike River Mine re-entry are all on the same page concerning the ‘safety first’ message which halted today’s re-entry.

Pike River Recovery Agency is standing by its decision to stall the mine re-entry, saying a process of elimination must be followed to ensure safety.
A three-man search team was due to enter the drift today, however a safety issue means work to re-open the site has been stalled and entry will have to be delayed.
Unexpected and unexplained oxygen readings were reported by the atmospheric monitoring systems in the Pike River Mine on Wednesday.
Dinghy Pattinson, who was to lead the expedition, told TVNZ 1’s Breakfast that over the next few days, a process of elimination will be followed

“Anybody that enters that mine has to know it’s a safe environment, that’s why we did what we did yesterday,” he said.

Andrew Little is in agreement:

[T]he Minister Responsible for Pike River re-entry, Andrew Little said it was the right decision.

He told Breakfast that he had said from the outset that safety had to come first.

Better monitoring systems have now enabled a safer entry process and while is has been a disappointing outcome for many today, Mr Little said the families affected were “totally understanding.”

“We met with a lot of the families last night and they are in remarkably good spirits, they totally understand and accept what has happened,” he said.

“Today is an opportunity to go back up to the mine site and for those families to see what has happened, the gear that is on site and get a bit of a technical briefing about what has happened to date and what has happened in the last 24 hours and what the prognosis might look like,” Mr Little said.

Reporter Jane McFie, who wrote a book on the event, intends to be there when the mine is re-entered.

This background is from Radio New Zealand:

Journalist Rebecca Macfie wrote the book on the subject – Tragedy at Pike River Mine: How and Why 29 Men Died. When the slab of concrete guarding the mine entrance is pulled away, she will be there.

She remembers hearing the breaking news about the Greymouth explosion on 19 November, 2010.

“I guess very early on I came to the view – which was somewhat instinctive for me really – that this was not an accident,” she said.

“Early on I started seeing little hints in the company documents that this was a really high-risk operation that had gone badly. It had suffered endless delays, it seemed to be constantly under-capitalised. It had a series of things in the design and development that had gone wrong, constantly under-delivering and over-promising. And I basically followed my nose with that.”

Macfie spent hours sitting in on the Royal Commission in 2011 which followed those same sorts of lines of inquiry into the root causes of the calamity.

She said even for “an old journo like me”, the eventual re-opening day would be an emotional one.

“It’s just been such an extraordinary story, right from the beginning,” she said.

And she highlights why re-entry is so important.

Since the explosion there has been a series of extraordinary events.

Pike River Coal went broke three weeks later so it could not pay its substantial debts, or its fines when it was prosecuted. There was an attempt to prosecute mine manager Peter Whittall, but all charges were dropped in a deal that was later found to be unlawful. Then Solid Energy, which had purchased the mine, tried to permanently seal the entrance after it said re-entry could not be done safely. A picket by families was successful is stopping the work. Then Solid Energy itself went broke.

Macfie said this has been the worst industrial disaster in New Zealand for almost a century – and a totally avoidable catastrophe. “There has been no accountability. And that’s why it’s continued to be a weeping sore.”

She said this re-entry was not only about recovering human remains, but about recovering forensic evidence as to the cause of the explosion.

“We know it was a methane blast, but where did the spark come from – what was the fuse that blew the thing?”

The mine tunnel entrance is 2.3km long, and at about 1.9 km there is a labyrinth of tunnels built in rock which contain equipment of huge interest to the police and off-shore forensic experts.

When it has been made safe, they will go in to examine that equipment for clues. But for now, the key is – when it has been made safe.

This does not stop the usual suspects from trying to politicise the delay by failing to understand the difference between delaying something and stopping something.  Shame on them.

Of course all steps should be taken to re-enter the mine.  So that if at all possible families can be reunited with the remains of their loved ones.  And the legal system can finally work out the appropriate response to this event.

51 comments on “Pike River re-entry delayed”

  1. BM 1

    So that if at all possible families can be reunited with the remains of their loved ones

    How's that going to happen? they were only ever going into the drift, not the mine.

    From what I understand there's only around 100 m of the drift that hasn't been checked out.

  2. Andre 2

    She said this re-entry was not only about recovering human remains, but about recovering forensic evidence as to the cause of the explosion.

    “We know it was a methane blast, but where did the spark come from – what was the fuse that blew the thing?”

    I don't get it why finding the exact ignition point is considered important. The inquiry established there were several places where explosion-proof equipment should have been installed and wasn't. Any of those could have been the ignition point.

    The only good reason to be concerned about finding the exact point of ignition is if it might point to a previously unknown hazard, but the probability of that is vanishingly low considering how many instances of flouting sound engineering practice were already uncovered. Including the cavalier treatment of methane sensors and practices intended to ensure miners evacuated well before methane concentrations got to dangerous levels.

    What looks more important to me is examining where the miners are found. To learn about whether they may have survived the initial explosion, whether there could be better self-rescue and refuge systems, and how outside response teams could respond better if there's a future similar disaster.

    • McFlock 2.1

      The thought that immediately occurs is that if one of those items was in fact the source of ignition (rather than possibly being a previously unknown source), it makes some manner of culpable homocide charge possible?

      • Andre 2.1.1

        From the info coming out of the inquiry, it seems there were all manner of culpable homicide charges waiting to blow up. It was just a matter of chance which one happened to blow up first.

        If that's the case, is it then fair and reasonable to pin it all on one individual whose whose work is deemed to be the ignition point? The contractor that installed a sparky fan where it should have an explosion-proof one, when all around it was other sparky gear that should have been explosion-proof but wasn't?

        By analogy with the 737MAX clusterfuck, it seems to me that looking for a culpable homicide charge in the wreckage of the mine is like looking for a culpable homicide charge among the technicians involved in servicing and replacing the angle of attack sensors. But the 737MAX debacle made it clear there's rottenness all the way to the top of Boeing and the FAA. Similarly with Pike River, we know the entire mine and management and oversight was thoroughly ill-conceived and rotten right from the beginning and all the way to the top. And the top is where culpability should be sheeted home, but they've already been let off the hook.

        • McFlock 2.1.1.1

          What opportunity is there to put them back on the hook if new evidence is found?

          • Andre 2.1.1.1.1

            Dunno. I suspect it's indistinguishable from zero. A lot of them are out of the country, so there's also the minor practical matter of laying hands on them.

            • McFlock 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Could put the wind up 'em, though.

              Besides, there might always be the option that the litany of negligence didn't cause the explosion at all and that there's a problem with the mining technique they were using (ISTR they were using water cannon? ISTR there was an interesting problem with very large crude carriers blowing up when their tank wash cycle was operating – the high pressure water caused static build up and sparks, and nobody had expected that when they upsized the units).

  3. Enough is Enough 3

    This whole thing has always been politicised. But for politics, why else Little and Jacinda there today?

  4. Tuppence Shrewsbury 4

    Mickey, Does it ever get boring trying to polish this governments turds? particularly when they can't manage to get any decent comms going themselves?

    It seems odd that for several years safety is the reason no entry was attempted, and now it's being delayed because of safety? splitting hairs but all the same?

  5. cleangreen 5

    Tuppence Shrewd-sbury

    Does it ever get boring for you trying to polish the ‘last National Governments turds’ similarly?

    Tied of you Nat’s trying to be a gatekeeper for that corrupt national party lot and we want to get to the truth even if you want to hide it.

    • Tuppence Shrewsbury 5.1

      still holding on the past there old man?

      I polished no turds for the previous government. Nor am It a respected national insider commenting on politicised issues.

      I'm not even a Nat.

      But take any criticism of this governments inability to communicate clearly on any issue as being some sort of National conspiracy. I can't stop you being as clearly deranged and untruthful as you are.

    • greywarshark 5.2

      Cleangreen

      How noticeable it is how the RW gather and make snipey remarks about the Pike River re-entry that is both tragic and an engineering project. Andre and McFlock discuss the matter using their thinking brains, the others just buzzing round like mosquitoes, and we all dislike their nasty ways. But it is no use taking them to task, they are degenerates.

      • Stuart Munro. 5.2.1

        I'm not sure that they ever evolved far enough to conspicuously degenerate – unevolved might be a better description.

  6. alwyn 6

    Micky publishes some of Little's comments about the recovery, choosing those that say that it looks like going ahead. Did he notice some other reports, also from this mornings news shows that are not nearly so encouraging?

    "But Little told The AM Show on Friday that if problems continue to arise and nothing can be done to make the re-entry safe, they may have to call quits on the operation.

    "There will come a point where we say 'we have fulfilled our commitment to do everything possible and everything conceivable and safely, but we can't get there or we can't go any further'," he said."

    He certainly looks as if he is plotting his retreat from his determined stand that a re-entry would happen doesn't it?

    https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2019/05/andrew-little-open-to-cancelling-pike-river-re-entry-if-progress-cannot-be-made-safely.html

    • indiana 6.1

      C'mon, this is the year of delivery! Stop being such a glass is half empty type of commentator.

      • alwyn 6.1.1

        "this is the year of delivery".

        Really? Who is the pregnant lady. Apart from the Duchess of Sussex of course.

        • Shadrach 6.1.1.1

          Wait…next year is election year. All of those working groups will be reporting back. Decisions will need to be made. Action will need to be taken. I predict an announcement around March…

          • Shadrach 6.1.1.1.1

            I spoke too soon! It's a wedding! Look over there – no Pike river, no Kiwi Build calamity. No increase in poverty. No CGT backdown. It's a wedding!!

            Congrats to both of them. Marriage is great!!

      • Ad 6.1.2

        You'll get a wedding.

    • woodart 6.2

      if and when the mine is re-entered, are you going to come down off your high horse and appologise? answer honestly (yeah right!!)

      • alwyn 6.2.1

        Yes I will. But if they don't re-enter the mine, and only fluff around for a bit in the drift, will the Labour Party refund the total cost of the operation to the New Zealand taxpayer, apologising at the time for their purely political and cynical actions.

        My statement is that they are never going to enter the mine itself. You know, the place where the miners were at the time of the explosion. Why don't the tell the truth to the families? There will never be any remains retrieved.

        • woodart 6.2.1.1

          "there will never be any remains retreived"…. would you like to put your house on this foolish statement? even if humans never get there, you can be sure that a tracked robot will.

          • alwyn 6.2.1.1.1

            Not in my lifetime. These claims that they would bring the boys home are a bunch of lies by Little and the drunken dwarf. The "tracked robots" you suggest will have to be a hell of a lot more effective than the ones they tried as well. Just how do you propose they get through the rockfall?

            On the other hand "never" is pretty strong. I don't think that a recovery will be as quick as was the retrieval of Otzi's body though. He was there for a mere 5300 years but he was only in an ice field.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%96tzi

            Ultimately erosion will remove all the rock above the mine and something will reach the surface.

  7. Im right 7

    But..but..but, didn't Winston and Labour have documents/reports that they assured were from the experts and they showed it was safe for re-entry, infact they took great delight in saying they could re enter the mine a day after election if they win. OK that was just 'political' bluster and here we are now almost 18mths in govt and now he is saying there is a possibility an entry may not ever be possible due to safety. One has to ask…why were National bad when they cited safety (gas build up) around re entry and their reports wrong and now Labour cannot enter and cite safety (gas build up)…what about their reports they were waving when in opposition?

  8. observer 8

    The real story here is yet another open division in the National party.

    Mark Mitchell (official spokesman) supports re-entry. Simeon Brown MP mocks it on Twitter – to general disgust.

    • Fireblade 8.1

      Mark Mitchell is the nominated pretender.

      The reality is National don't give a fuck about the re-entry or the families. They never have.

      • Im right 8.1.1

        But Fireblade, what say you about my post, Labour shouted loud and long that their reports were correct and Nationals were wrong showing gas build up, National always said they would enter WHEN IT IS SAFE, seems Little has been hung by his own petard, and if NO entry eventuates I guess all you lefties will say ''at least he tried", but same result as the National party then eh? 🙂

        • mauī 8.1.1.1

          Same result? Did Labour spend 7 years closing the thing up and trying to shove 20 metres of concrete down it?

        • In Vino 8.1.1.2

          I'm Right – please read the news thoroughly before you mouth off. The gas build-up was methane. Methane cannot burn without oxygen, so when methane filled the area it became safe to go in wearing breathing gear, and that was going to happen.

          Unfortunately, something has just leaked air (including oxygen) into the area, making the methane dangerous again. It is not gas build-up as you spout: it is actually gas dilution. Get it right, please. The air leak will be plugged, and when methane has built up to near 100% again, it will be possible to attempt entry again.

          Or do you have better understanding?

          • Im right 8.1.1.2.1

            Rather strange this oxygen was just discovered a day before re-entry….LoL, you guys just can't see anything wrong with this story, gas detected a day before re-entry (insert Tui and here)

            • McFlock 8.1.1.2.1.1

              Totally makes sense – they invented a safety issue to postpone entry because they know entry can't be done safely due to safety issues that actually exist.

              Or maybe they covered up the safety issue they knew to be insurmountable and then pretended to find it at the last minute in order to "postpone" entry and eventually cancel it, because that's a secret that would never get out in an election year.

              Because it's completely unthinkable that one of the lessons of Pike River (maintain and trust your gas monitoring equipment even if you have targets to meet, because the risk isn't worth it) has actually been learned by a government project in the relevant area.

              Actually, given the nats fucked up the wellington board of education payroll system in 1993, and then repeated the fuckup with novapay, maybe a tory trool is understandaly surprised that a government might actually learn the lessons from the past.

          • Andre 8.1.1.2.2

            My first thought too was if it was near enough 100% methane it would be safe to go in with breathing gear. But apparently they've been pumping in nitrogen for months to try to purge "methane and oxygen". Maybe there's been always been too much air permeating through cracked rock for the methane to get high enough to be safe.

            https://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/pike-river-oxygen-levels-high-mine-re-entry-delayed

        • Fireblade 8.1.1.3

          After years of weasel words from the National Party, the decision was made to permanently seal the drift with 30m of concrete, making any future re-entry impossible.

          In late 2016 family members and others protested on the Pike River entrance road. Nick Smith insisted that the work would still go ahead. Then the concrete supplier refused to work on the project and it stalled.

          https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/86411903/pike-river-mine-closure-delayed-as-families-continue-road-block-protest

  9. Im right 9

    Rather strange this oxygen was just discovered a day before re-entry….LoL, you guys just can't see anything wrong with this story, gas detected a day before re-entry (insert Tui and here)

  10. Observer Tokoroa 10

    Hi Micky Savage

    As you are aware, this Blog is an outlet for pathetic low IQ National party Propaganda. Just as Radio National does on air.

    The same persona pour their cringing rubbish onto these screens day after dreary day. There are a few exceptions who are not deeply sodden Right Wing Wealthy scribblers. Very few.

    My question to you is whether we should re-establish elsewhere, a New Accurate Blog – free of Right Rubbish Trolls. Free from the Greed and smug Money (stolen from the Poor) ?

    Life is Short Micky. Why should we waste it on Filthy Greed and Stupidity ? We have Thousands and Thousands of New Zealanders suffering under the Boots of National while we offer those same National Boots entry on here.

    Thousands and thousands of NZ people have no Ownership of Homes. Millions. Millions are in the Hands of Greed Greed Greed National Rentals.

    Micky – why are we supporting Truncheons of Trolls, and their behaviour. ?

    • Im right 10.1

      OMG, seems OT does not like facts and differing opinion to his own, you just want an echo chamber OT? What have myself or any other poster in this thread said that upset you to the extent you need a safe space? (Only left views allowed) you are welcome to check out Hansard as to what the opposition (Lab/NZ1st) were saying about re-entry! Facts are terrible when they upset people I realise, sorry OT, welcome to real life 😁

  11. Koff 11

    Latest report from Radio NZ is that it is now thought that the monitoring equipment was faulty and was allowing oxygen into the sensor. New monitoring equipment shows no more oxygen actually being sucked into the entry tunnel.

    https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/388466/pike-river-faulty-monitoring-equipment-likely-to-blame-for-re-entry-delay

  12. sumsuch 12

    Tiring silly nonsense. First World problem. Graveyards.

    We haven't yet restored mental-cases Ruth Richardson and Jenny Shipley's 1991 benefit cuts which tore 'our!' poor into dysfunction.

  13. vto 13

    What a hopeless line of comments above, filled with ignorance.

    Pike River took shortcuts with safety to try and meet coal supply deadlines. Hell, Pike River even offered $10,000 lump sum payments to workers to try and get more out of them.

    This is the most important workplace incident in the country's history and sheets right home to the mine manager, the directors and board (who have chickened off, the typically cowardly fuckwits a-la John Key style), and the politicians and their neoliberal policies implemented over the last 30 years in relation to workplaces.

    It is as big as it comes.

    Back to all the ignorant comments above … "blah blah, told ya it was unsafe.." … they make this place stink like pre-terror kiwiblog – shitsmell.

    • RedLogix 13.1

      Yeah. There was a line here ages back that has stuck in my memory "the reason there were no prosecutions was not that there was no-one culpable, but that there were too many who were guilty".

      People have forgotten that in the first months of Key's govt they were actively touting Pike River as the 'future of mining', lauding the 'precision, key-hole techniques' that made mining in pristine areas, and by implication the Conservation Estate, acceptable.

      And it was Gerry Brownlee in his first official function as Minister of Economic Development who formally opened the mine, giving the operation official government approval and support:

      http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU0811/S00399.htm

      Happy to take credit in the good times, yet scuttled like rats when the rain came.

  14. Panda 14

    Not one person has named who the so called expert/s are that said it was too dangerous to go in after the explosion. In a mine that was found to be so dangerous and almost every health and safety law ignored, to have 29 die and no one held to account is criminal. Then to secretly try and seal it in my eyes is kicking families whilst down. If they have had men into the drift to leave notes then why did they not go further at that time and why was it deemed to unsafe by unnamed experts yet here they were in that same mine? Nothing adds up in this and no wonder families want answers.

  15. Doogs 15

    I am heartily sick of people, Nat supporters or not, who come on to this blog with the express purpose of dumping a pile of turds and letting the smell drift over everything. These are people who are never happier than when putting a stick into someone's spokes. There is very little, if any, logic to their so-called arguments because as arguments they don't stand up. They will lambast anything this government does, or in their view doesn't do, and shouts 'told you so' about almost everything. It is exactly like Simon standing up in Parliament and shouting the odds about what Labour hasn't done, instead of telling us all in a measured way what his government would do differently.

    When I see some rational and measured arguments, containing facts and reason, then I shall cease with the push back. The attitudes these trolls display are a large part of what is wrong with our society. Jacinda is concerned about how people are, she has concern and empathy for people, and RW trolls see this as nothing but weakness. They see Andrew Little's caution and open talk about the problems with the mine as softening people for a later decision.

    I find these nasty, angry, aggressive, critical and ugly statements about what this government is trying to do as so unnecessary. When people say things about what the Nats did or didn't do there comes a barrage of snide and ignorant rubbish. This government has a double job – to do what is best for the people of our lovely country, and to clear away the detritus left behind by 9 years of neo-liberal mis-management. That is not supposition. It is a fact. What they don't need is a third job of pushing back on all the vile and vituperate comments coming from these who are uncomfortable with a caring and compassionate society.

    I am heartily sick of RWNJ vileness. There's nothing constructive about what they say. It's all 'knives out and and stick it to them'.

    Damn the fuckwits to hell and beyond.

  16. michelle 16

    Doogs you are wasting your time trying to talk to people like that we have a lot of nasty people in our country now many are gutless, two faced hypocrites and they ain't worth you worrying i always believe they will get there come up ins.

    national voters have shown they care mainly about themselves and people need to start seeing them for who and what they really are c…s

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