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So, it is about cost?

Written By: - Date published: 6:45 am, January 17th, 2011 - 207 comments
Categories: Mining, workers' rights - Tags: ,

You would think that, to reassure the families and satisfy critics, the government would have released detailed technical analysis showing why re-entering Pike River will never be possible. Instead, we got vague, contradictory statements only after the media pressed Key for answers. Now, a mining expert has confirmed the mine’s atmosphere is stable and can be made breathable cheaply.

Here’s the key passages from the Press article:

Mine safety expert Dr David Cliff, of the University of Queensland, said that while the atmosphere in the West Coast mine had improved, to say it was safe to enter was a “quantum leap”.

Cliff was among the experts consulted by police before last week’s announcement that the mine would be sealed.

He said there had been a “marked improvement” in the mine atmosphere over the past few days.

“The atmosphere is now inert without the use of the GAG [Gorniczy Agregat Gasniczy],” Cliff said.

“It’s not capable of supporting combustion. It’s full of methane, as far as we can detect. …

The mine’s atmosphere was close to 100 per cent methane, with oxygen excluded, he said.

“Therefore it’s a dramatic improvement. There’s no active ignition sources in the mine, most probably, but we still don’t know for sure.”

If conditions were maintained, there would be “no more explosions”, Cliff said.

“The atmosphere is one part of the equation – there’s the mining conditions, it is the logistics of re-entering up a single tunnel that is 2.5-kilometres long into unknown conditions – these are the sort of factors bearing on people’s minds.”

Bore holes would be required to stabilise the mine, at a cost of $250,000 each.

Pike River Families Committee spokesman Bernie Monk said they had had no information.

“The main thing is to get our loved ones out.

“Number two, we need the proper information to go to the coroner at the end of the month.

“Number three, we need to get in there to find out the truth of what has happened. We don’t want any hearsay,” Monk said.”

So, the mine isn’t safe but there’s no more burning and no more ignition source to re-start the burning because lack of oxygen has put the fire out. It’s not yet safe to enter but a few quarter of boreholes at quarter of a million a pop – so the methane is let out and normal atmosphere in – and the following goals can be achieved: remains can be recovered, evidence in the mine can be examined, a potentially dangerous concentration of methane on DoC land can be eliminated and, possibly, the process of getting the mine back into operation can begin. Seems pretty cheap.

This makes the government’s inadequately explained decision to halt the process even odder.

Odd too, is Gerry Brownlee’s insistence that the receivers decide by the end of today what they will do with the mine. As the Press’s editorial asks, ‘what’s the rush?’. Another way of asking that question is ‘who benefits from rushing the receivers into a decision?’.

I don’t know. I can’t puzzle it out. I just can’t see any motive for the government’s bizarre behaviour, unless it really is about cost and the government set a limit of $5 million which has now been reached.

But I do know that if the government was telling us the whole story then everything would be out in the open and above board – we wouldn’t have ministers ducking from the media and giving vague, shifting answers.

207 comments on “So, it is about cost? ”

  1. higherstandard 1

    Wouldn’t bore holes reintroduce oxygen ?

    • Marty G 1.1

      that appears to be the idea. Once the ignition is ended, drill boreholes to swap the methane for normal atmosphere in a controlled manner.

      if you don’t think that’s right – take it up with the mining expert.

    • lprent 1.2

      If there is no oxygen in there now, then there will be no fire and therefore no ignition source. Therefore if there is no ignition source, then reintroducing oxygen isn’t a problem.
      * patiently wonders about peoples education *

      • jcuknz 1.2.1

        But I thought that spontaneous combustion took place at a given and low methane/oxygen mix … so adding oxygen to the mine will cause further explosions? Then also I think, people can enter wearing breathing apparatus, maybe, to go two km to search the place, right … but as they breath oxygen in from their tanks they breath out into the methane atmosphere … sounds dicey to me.
        Not suprised the aussie expert talks about quantum leaps.

        Edit–Also “No fire” … even with the most careful there is the danger of a spark setting off an explosion as investigators move through the tunnels.

        • Bright Red 1.2.1.1

          methane and oxygen won’t just explode if at a combustible ratio, there still needs to be an ignition source. the idea of the boreholes (from the mining expert) seems to be you let the methane out, so that there isn’t an explosive mix in the mine when you go back in.

          • mcflock 1.2.1.1.1

            “methane and oxygen won’t just explode if at a combustible ratio”

            If they did, it would add a new and terrifying hazard to spicy food.

          • Swampy 1.2.1.1.2

            methane is constnatly in production & pockets can build up if the ventilation isnot going
            one part of a mine VERY IMPORTANT is a proper ventilation system probly all blown to bits now

            • Colonial Viper 1.2.1.1.2.1

              That’s another question to answer requiring coal face access – what was the state of the ventilation system and how did it allow explosive concentrations to build up in the first place?

      • Richard 1.2.2

        Therefore if there is no ignition source, then reintroducing oxygen isn’t a problem.

        Sure, unless you create an ignition source after you’ve introduced the oxygen, like through all this drilling and so forth that the re-introduction of oxygen requires, or through the movement of men/equipment into the “stabilised” mine for recovery operations.

        From what has been previously reported it seems that methane needed to be continuously vented from the mine when it was operating. So, it seems that you need to restart/recreate this ventilation system to make the mine “safe”. It doesn’t seem to be just a case of replacing the methane in the mine with a breathable atmosphere, methane seems to be continually arriving in the mine from an underground reservoir.

        It certainly seems very technically difficult, dangerous, and expensive to regain access to the mine.

        • Lanthanide 1.2.2.1

          Yes, but now that this is a recovery situation and they just want to get in there to get the remains and perhaps some evidence of what actually happened, it is expedient to simply drill holes and let it escape into the atmosphere unhindered, rather than requiring it to be collected and disposed of (sold?) in a more environmentally-friendly fashion when the mine was actually a commercial operation.

          But yes, it’s quite possible that drilling holes won’t be sufficient and in fact only makes the place more dangerous.

          • Richard 1.2.2.1.1

            Yes, but now that this is a recovery situation and they just want to get in there to get the remains and perhaps some evidence of what actually happened…

            But to do this probably requires the mine to be entered by large numbers of people for substantial periods of time. It’s not just a matter of quickly dashing in there any more than an initial rescue was. It takes hours to get in by foot, hours to get out by foot, hours to accomplish anything in there. It seems like you really need the mine to be safe for a period of weeks, especially by the time you have fecked about moving obstructing machinery and possible cave-ins, etc.

            …let it escape into the atmosphere unhindered, rather than requiring it to be collected and disposed of (sold?) in a more environmentally-friendly fashion…

            It’s not an issue of doing something commerically useful with the vented gas, it is an issue of venting it in such a way that an explosive atmosphere does not form again, while your recovery team is in there. Which the explosions subsequent to the initial one demonstrated is a danger.

        • lprent 1.2.2.2

          It certainly seems very technically difficult, dangerous, and expensive to regain access to the mine.

          I’d agree with that. However it is clearly feasible. So the only real question is cost – as the post says.

          That comes directly back to the credibility of John Key et al in this government who said (paraphrasing) that they’d do whatever was required, but are balking on paying the price.

          Frankly it appears that John Key has a variable sense of honor when it comes to standing behind his promises.

          • Swampy 1.2.2.2.1

            WHen the mine is first built they put in the proper bentilation system as they go along to make sure theres always the methane is getting sucked out. as new areas are opened up the ventilation gets extented to make sure the air flow goes out all the time.

            assuming a lot of damage to that therefore non working they would have to try to monitor the methane everywhere before they went in. if they find theres too much methane somewhre what can they do. well they cant bring in machinery to install the ventilation because it could start an explosion or fire.

            you are going into a big open space that has methane being produced all the time it may be possible to vent some of it with bore holes however the air flow is likely to promote the coal catching alight by itself whichs common scenario for mines in general. given that the mines not in production so you havent got the equipment and stuff to suppress.

            i think whats being suggested is the mine having been on fires still very hot and it will take a long time to cool down as long as its still hot it can catch fire again and letting air in by opening holes or oppening entrance risks letting it on fire again.

          • Richard 1.2.2.2.2

            Yes, Key’s problem is his credibility given that it is widely believed that he claimed that cost would not be an object in effecting the recovery (paraphrasing).

            Personally, I think that it is the right decision to seal the mine, given that it is so technically difficult, and dangerous, and ulitmately of little benefit (yes, it would be of some benefit to an investigation), and likely very expensive.

            Key’s problem is that there probably is a very expensive and feasible, albeit difficult and dangerous, solution to this problem. It is difficult for him to argue that a decision to abandon recovery is not about the cost.

            The problem that others, like Labour, have is that despite it being difficult for Key to argue that abandoning recovery is consistent with his previous statements, it is difficult to prove that Key’s decision is the wrong decision at this time.

            • Pascal's bookie 1.2.2.2.2.1

              Why don’t the families know what is goping on? That’s what the government’s problem is.

              http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/pike-river-2010/66434/pike-river-mine-families-mull-legal-action

              • Richard

                Yes, the government has numerous PR problems here.

                The problems are whether current decisions are consistent with previous statements, and whether a normal, fair, transparent process has been used to make these decisions. Which is pretty much something you could say about every decision Key and this goverment has made.

                The counter-argument, I think, is that the actual current decision seems to be the correct one — although given the opacity of information it is hard to tell.

                • Colonial Viper

                  The counter-argument, I think, is that the actual current decision seems to be the correct one — although given the opacity of information it is hard to tell.

                  All I know is that losing access to the coal face will seriously hinder the investigation into what went wrong and why. Al we will be left with is a lot of supposition and very little physical evidence.

                  • Richard

                    Yes, you are right that lack of access to the coal face will hinder investigation.

                    I doubt it will hinder investigation enough for an investigation to fail to find systemic failures (if any) in either the site safety programme and/or the legislation it operated under. There should be policies, records, etc, and the testimony of other workers available.

          • Fisiani 1.2.2.2.3

            I initially thought this was a technical discussion about mine atmosphere conditions by people with apparently a limited understanding of chemistry. Turns out it is just another attempted smear campaign on Honest John. Shame to use 29 deaths in this way

      • Swampy 1.2.3

        Sponataneous combustion

      • Sailor Sam 1.2.4

        To replace the methane with air will cause the atmosphere to pass through the explosive range again, and any small spark would cause another explosion.
        A tunnel 2.5km long filled with methane is not a safe atmosphere, it means that methane is still being produced inside the mine and thus would keep large pockets of the atmosphere in an explosive condition when air is introduced. And any small spark, from any minor metal to metal contact could have disastrous results.
        *patiently wonder about your education*

      • Draco T Bastard 1.2.5

        How hot is the inside of the mine and what’s methane’s autoignition temperature?

      • SHG 1.2.6

        One thing conspicuously absent from my background is underground fire control. So if I sound really ignorant, that’s why. Anyway.

        So the mine is now devoid of oxygen and there are no ignition sources. Thus no fire risk. Yay.

        But drilling boreholes and sending people inside surely involves introducing oxygen and ignition sources (drill bits, electric lights, metal equipment, etc). So there would be a freshly-created fire risk.

        Isn’t that the problem? There’s no fire risk now because there are no rescue operations. If there were rescue operations there would be a fire risk, and thus rescue operations would be forbidden.

        Or am I missing something?

        • Blighty 1.2.6.1

          obviously one has to be careful but it’s obviously not impossible to drill into an underground pocket of methane without igniting it – where do you think natural gas comes from?

          • SHG 1.2.6.1.1

            Is it 100% certain that a team of people decked out in bits of metal (buckles, air tanks, etc) and carrying things powered by electricity would kick their way through 2.5km of rocks and debris without causing a spark?

            • Treetop 1.2.6.1.1.1

              Firstly cameras do the job of people through vents. Then the robot goes in as far as it can. Then this is evaluated. We live in a high tech age where often the impossible is possible when it is tried.

              • SHG

                Is it 100% certain that cameras and robots would not cause a spark?

                • Puddleglum

                  Is it 100% certain that cameras and robots (and rescuers) would cause a spark?

                  I ask because what is really behind this debate is not a matter of technical facts but a matter of ‘value’ or judgment. Facts can’t finally answer the question of whether the recovery should continue.

                  The best we can hope for is a degree of consensus. That doesn’t mean every last person agrees, it just means that it becomes socially and politically untenable to hold to another view (and so the consensus will roll our collective actions forward).

                  The real problem at the moment is a political problem, not a technical one (if you doubt imagine what you might hear if you listened into some conversations around the 9th floor of the Beehive at the moment). It’s become a particularly messy political problem because there is so much confusion and a sense that both the families and the wider public have no idea of what is going on or why.

                  A consensus can’t build in a situation where there is so much clearly going on behind the scenes working out who might say what, when. (All of that is about politics too – in the broader as well as narrower sense of the term.).

                  The fact that so many people were taken by surprise by the initial announcement by the Police suggests to me that the general sense of the amount of time, effort and money we’ve put into the recovery so far is that we’d only just begun. Hence the stunned media, public and family reactions when everything seemed to be called off – or was it???. No, it’s the receivers who decide. No, actually, Key’s already told us it has to be sealed. No, …

                  With a Royal Commission coming along, this is not going to go away – no matter how many expert reports get tabled.

                • Swampy

                  it is 100 certain there are no suitable robots in the whole world for mining rescue

            • Marty G 1.2.6.1.1.2

              you wouldn’t send in robots until the atomsphere has been swapped out for normal air.

              • SHG

                So robots + normal atmosphere + methane = 100% absolutely totally no risk of fire then?

                • Marty G

                  there isn’t a combustible level of methane in a normal atmosphere. They’ve said they won’t try to re-enter the mine until the atmosphere is stable (which the mining expert says is already the case) – stable atmosphere means it does not have methane pouring into it getting up to ignition ratio.

        • jcuknz 1.2.6.2

          The funny thing about this discussion that a few days ago they were sealing ‘cracks’ in the ground … and now the talk is about drilling ventilation holes … what the hell is going on?
          What with the lefties saying go and the righties say woe it seems the taxpayer will continue to bleed with the emotionalism instead of common sense guiding.

          • McFlock 1.2.6.2.1

            Seems reasonable – smother the fire by sealing the cracks, when the fire is out make it breathable so people have a possibility of going in to see what happened/recover the workers.

          • Swampy 1.2.6.2.2

            they seal cracks to try to get fire out
            they make boreholes to get sensors in to sample temps and atmoshpere to see whats happening inside.

    • dilbert 1.3

      Has it been reported how many bore holes would be required?

      While $250K seems reasonable if say only 2-3 are required however if 100 are required its a slightly different discussion.

      • Bright Red 1.3.1

        Not if it’s to make a $300 million investment viable again and allow access to $4 billion worth of coal.

        • Richard 1.3.1.1

          If there is a good business decision to be made, that the cost to reopen the mine safely, is worth it given the value of the coal that will be recovered, then that is surely a decision for whomever (if anyone) is considering buying the mine.

          There’s no real need for the taxpayer to subsidise the opening of the mine. It is either commercially viable or it isn’t.

          • Blighty 1.3.1.1.1

            I don’t really care who pays as long as someone does – there seems to be no fatal technical barrier – despite Key’s claims. And your penny-pinching is in marked contrast to Key’s ‘whatever it takes’ promise and claim that the recovery isn’t being abandoned because of cost.

            Is it worth it to the taxpayer to know how 29 miners were killed, considering the govt wants to expand mining?

            • Richard 1.3.1.1.1.1

              I don’t agree with Key. I think that the fatal technical barrier is that it is too expensive.

              It is unclear, anyway, whether Key et al, are arguing that the problem is cost (and that they never said cost wouldn’t be a barrier), or that there is technical barrier regardless of cost.

              Is it worth it to the taxpayer to know how 29 miners were killed, considering the govt wants to expand mining?

              Of course. However, it seems pretty clear that re-opening the mine safely is going to cost $10s, if not $100s of millions. Is it worth that much to the taxpayer?

              Obviously, it would be nice to have access to the site, but lack of access won’t stop safety lessons being learnt and implemented.

              • Colonial Viper

                I don’t agree with Key. I think that the fatal technical barrier is that it is too expensive.

                That’s right! I remember Key saying to the families “we will spare no effort to recover the bodies of your loved ones, and the Government will commit to paying for the operation, as long as it doesn’t get too expensive”

                Pass me a Tui.

                ack of access won’t stop safety lessons being learnt and implemented.

                Oh yeah except that no one knows what went wrong and how it went wrong.

                Its not just “nice” to have access to the site. Its imperative.

                • Richard

                  Oh yeah except that no one knows what went wrong and how it went wrong.

                  Its not just “nice” to have access to the site. Its imperative.

                  It seems pretty clear that “what went wrong” is that an explosive atmosphere formed and was ignited in the mine. It either happened because safety systems failed or safety systems were inadequate or some inexpliable, unpredictable natural phenomena occured.

                  Investigation of the records of safety systems (along with the testiomony of workers in other shifts about what was actually done) should largely identify the important safety failings. As numerous people have said, modern mines like this should not blow up if they are run well. Site access would obviously be better, but it may not be critical to an investigation.

                  We might not know precisely what happened, but how the dangerous situation arose should be something that can be determined without site access.

                  • McFlock

                    “Investigation of the records of safety systems (along with the testiomony of workers in other shifts about what was actually done) should largely identify the important safety failings. ”

                    But a recovered sensor that was either faulty or sabotaged would give pretty clear-cut evidence, rather than human testimony that might be skewed by vested interests.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    We might not know precisely what happened, but how the dangerous situation arose should be something that can be determined without site access.

                    Don’t make me laugh.

                    You just wrote up a description which said it could have been this OR this OR this OR this OR this, and that by looking at paperwork (because that’s SO reliable compared to physical evidence of what actually did happen) we SHOULD be able to LARGELY identify the safety failings.

                    Maybe.

                    What a joke. Lets find out what actually DID happen and not what MAY have happened, OK? Is that too much to ask in an event which took 29 lives. OK?

                    • Richard

                      What a joke. Lets find out what actually DID happen and not what MAY have happened, OK? Is that too much to ask in an event which took 29 lives. OK?

                      I think you have an exaggerated idea of what might be unambigiously discernable from an examination of the actual wreckage.

                      Yes, something might be learned from examining the wreckage. It would be better to have access to the wreckage than not.

                      But not having access to the wreckage does not prevent an investigation about how the circumstances of the accident arose — which is the real issue.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      But not having access to the wreckage does not prevent an investigation about how the circumstances of the accident arose — which is the real issue.

                      You’re right of course. Just like having your legs broken doesn’t prevent you from doing a 100m sprint. You’ll just have to crawl crippled on your hands and belly to finish.

    • ak 1.4

      Wouldn’t bore holes reintroduce oxygen ?

      Dunno. Stay away just in case.

  2. Eddie 2

    Doesn’t this mean the process has been going as planned? The fire is out, the situation is stable on its own. The next stage is to make the air breathable.

    I can predict now that people in comments are going to seize on that ‘quantum leap’ quote and take it to mean ‘impossible’. Of course, a quantum leap is not an impossibility, just a step change.

    • Maynard J 2.1

      What on earth is a ‘step change’?

      Is it a change? A big one? A little one?

      I ask because this is a NACT term used to describe things they want to keep opaque.

      ‘It’s not privatisation, it’s a step change in ownership.’

      ‘We’re just looking for a step change in access to national parks for business opportunities’

      and so on…

  3. Who benefits from rushing the receivers into a decision?

    A further question that arises is who benefits from the ability to present to the Royal Commission an alternative factual explanation for the disaster that does not involve fault on the part of the management? And why would the Government buy into this? The press is right, the haste is obscene.

  4. vto 4

    Brownlee should explain why the receiver should come up with a plan by today.. and also explain how the receiver can in fact do such a thing given that he can ONLY act in accordance with legislation which has extremely narrow parameters and certainly does not allow for ministerial instruction or pressure.

    And the police / govt should explain why the mine was handed over to the receiver in the first place, given again that the receiver has only a tiny legislated mandate to attend to financial matters only.

    Talk about sloppy crappy crap.

    • jcuknz 4.1

      I thought police involvement was SAR justified … there is unlikely anything to be rescued so it is about time the police withdrew and handed the site back to the owners, should have happened earlier.

      • mickysavage 4.1.1

        But what about the investigation?

        You know, gathering those facty things that may establish that an offence has occurred. 29 people are dead. The investigation ought to be comprehensive and access to the mine is vital so that this occurs.

      • Colonial Viper 4.1.2

        jcuknz, the receivers only have one responsibility – making the most money from the mine that they can. Where does recovering the bodies and doing a full at the coal face investigation come into that, except as a major cost headache and delay?

        And knowing that, why would you want the receivers to get control of the mine ASAP?

      • mcflock 4.1.3

        “I thought police involvement was SAR justified … there is unlikely anything to be rescued so it is about time the police withdrew and handed the site back to the owners, should have happened earlier.”

        Just as an aside to the entire “should they / shouldn’t they” debate, there’s a second “R” that doesn’t apply when folks are initially missing/lost: “Recovery”. The reason the mine is being given back to the receivers is because that second “R” has been deemed impossible (or merely unaffordable, depending on your position).

    • Treetop 4.2

      And smelly very smelly crap.

      What I find hard to get is where is the Minister of Police as for now the police are still in charge of the operation; at least I think so until the police hand over a criminal investigation to accountants.

  5. stever 5

    It seems that the strategy here is to disconnect the government from further involvement as soon as possible.

    It’s just too damaging to their image to have ministers (finally, in a small way) answering questions from the press. Better to have some negative coverage over a short period in order to have no further part in all this.

    • vto 5.1

      Well yes yo are probably right and that was my first reaction stever, because I strongly suspect there are some strong bad smells to emanate from the death of these 29 men.

  6. Janice 6

    Marty, I would disagree with the five million cost, that I believe was supplied by Gerry te B. At one stage I heard that the GAG machine was costing $10,000/hour for aviation fuel alone. This did not take into account the cost of labour, maintenance, etc, not to mention the other drill holes. I wonder if we will ever get a full cost.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      If the Govt paid for it, yes we will get a full cost

      At one stage I heard that the GAG machine was costing $10,000/hour for aviation fuel alone.

      So you know, a 737 burns about 2500 kg of aviation fuel per hour. And that’s using two engines.

  7. Colonial Viper 7

    I’m really confused by yuor post Marty. Weren’t the RWNJ’s saying all weekend that the fires at Pike River were still going strong, and that they were probably going to keep burning for years uncontrollably like at the Strong Man mine?

    A few even said that they trusted Broad’s decision to pull out implicitly and they didn’t want to ask any more questions, the situation in the mine was clearly so hopeless.

    How very odd that Dr David Cliff didn’t mention any of that stuff in The Press.

    • Swampy 7.1

      Werent you guys all saying its a conspiracy theory and the mines ready to be entered

      Now David Cliff has said the mine cannot be re entered

  8. djp 8

    Even if there is no combustion at the moment hot coals could ignite if oxygen is added.

  9. Joe Bloggs 9

    Nearly three months after the first explosion a rationale decision has been made – one that should have been made easily after the first week. The mine has been burning at temperatures of up to 1,500 degrees. Crematoria operate at 800 degrees.

    So if it is all about cost, then perhaps the Labour Party could offer to underwrite the recovery.

    • Colonial Viper 9.1

      So if it is all about cost, then perhaps the Labour Party could offer to underwrite the recovery.

      Sure, for an ownership share of the mine, that could be done. Can you help organise the meeting please Bloggs. Thanks.

      Nearly three months after the first explosion

      Oh you exaggerated here. First explosion was on Nov 19, 2010.

      Doing the math in my head – hey wait that’s not even 2 months ago.

      • Joe Bloggs 9.1.1

        my bad – nearly 2 months of burning temperaures of up to 1500 degrees, not nearly 3 months…

        Although an extra month of 1500 degree temperatures is neither here nor there in terms of the normal crematoria operating temperatures of half that level.

        If the left has just realised how bad you looked calling for more lives to be risked to recover the teeth of the miners, then the look hasn’t improved one jot with this pretense that you are interested in “evidence”. Viz. Andrew Little inane and fatuous suggestions of cover-ups.

        Once you realise you look just as bad calling for more lives to be lost to find “evidence” just to score political points about a non-existent coverup, next you’ll claim you’re only trying to find what happened in order to improve mine safety.

        If this is the best Labour can do then the best place for them is in Opposition – the conscience-free tragedy-exploiters.

        • Tigger 9.1.1.1

          “Nearly three months after the first explosion a rationale decision has been made – one that should have been made easily after the first week. ”
          So jb you’re saying there has been a lack of leadership over this thing right from the start? Couldn’t agree more.

        • Bright Red 9.1.1.2

          No-one’s asking for lives to be risked.

          We’re asking for a promise to be kept or, failing that, a clear explanation of why the promise has been broken. Key won’t even acknowledge he made the promise, now.

        • Colonial Viper 9.1.1.3

          If this is the best Labour can do then the best place for them is in Opposition – the conscience-free tragedy-exploiters.

          I really do love how the Righties project their personalities on to other people! It really is very cool and totally consistent that they do this.

          I notice that Righties also do this with envy. The guy with $1M in assets and owns a new Prado is envious of the guy with $5M in assets and owns a new Cayenne. The $5M guy is envious of the guy who owns $20M in assets with the Ferrari. And the $20M guy is envious of the half billionaire (like Jackson) who can afford his own private jet.

          Most people, they just want to be able to pay their power bills on time and not have to scrimp and save on groceries for the family. What a difference eh.

    • Bright Red 9.2

      “The mine has been burning at temperatures of up to 1,500 degrees. Crematoria operate at 800 degrees.”

      the mine isn’t burning now. did you bother to read the article? the atmosphere is 100% methane, it can’t burn.

      It doesn’t matter if the bodies have been burned, their location and the location of the equipment will still be visible and there’s still a $300 million tunnel and $4 billion worth of coal.

      • Joe Bloggs 9.2.1

        So after nearly 2 months of blast furnace temperatures, numerous explosions in confimed spaces, potential cave-ins, etc., you think everything’s still sitting there, the location’s visible and the equipment will still be in place?

        Bodies are cremated at 800 – 900 degrees in between 30 minutes and 3 hours. The melting point of iron is 1535 degrees, FFS…

        You want to keep the mine open and go sifting through ashes and puddled metals? Knock yourself out!

        • Bill 9.2.1.1

          Joe. My room burns at temperatures that would cremate me. Oh, hang on. The fire in my room burns at such temperatures. Not my entire room. It heats up, but gets nowhere near the temperature of my fire. So, unless the entire mine was alight…

          • Bunji 9.2.1.1.1

            I’m not sure where JB gets his 1500C from. The biggest number the media could come up with was maybe as high as 1200C for a fireball (just the fireball, not the mine, just a very limited amount of time). Cremation incidentally has the whole furnace at 870-980C, if I’m continuing to pick with his figures.

            2 weeks ago they were describing the mine as still fluctuating massively in temperature – between 30sC and 130C. Not safe for humans, but not highly destructive to a crime scene either.

        • Colonial Viper 9.2.1.2

          Post fire forensics is a specialty area Bloggs, no one here is expecting you to know anything about it.

          • Joe Bloggs 9.2.1.2.1

            The operation of crematoria is also a specialised area, CV, and having worked on several of NZ’s crematoria, that area is something I DO have some knowledge of.

            And your qualifications in post fire forensics include what?

    • pollywog 9.3

      So if it is all about cost, then perhaps the Labour Party could offer to underwrite the recovery.

      But don’t the miners relief fund have 7 mil stashed away waiting to be administered by a trust ?

      surely the affected families could fund their own experts and recovery mission out of that ?

      • Colonial Viper 9.3.1

        Probably, but thats princely a sum of $241K for each affected family who has lost a breadwinner forever. That could get eaten through pretty quick, and you have to think – why would the financial burden shift from a Government which has committed to paying for the recovery?

        • pollywog 9.3.1.1

          Many of us have lost bread winners and not got jack for our troubles.

          Sad to say, but dying is an occupational hazard miners knowingly sign up for. It’s why they get paid the medium sized bucks.

          They knew the risks or at the very least should have, and consequently should have insured their asses for shitloads more…

          However, if the priority is to recover the remains of lost ones and pinpoint the reasons for their deaths and it will relieve the families greatly to do so. Then isn’t that exactly what the fund is for ?

          • Colonial Viper 9.3.1.1.1

            Yes, mining is hazardous work. What I want to see the official investigation do is pinpoint whether or not safety precautions at the mine were managed to world class standards. Remember, being paid decently does not offset an employer’s responsibilities – paying ‘danger money’ to workers is not an alternative to making sure a work place is as safe as is practical.

            But this begs the question – in a work place death investigation where the possibility of criminal corporate or personal neglect cannot yet be ruled out – why would a worker’s family be made to pay for the investigation instead of the Govt?

            • Daveo 9.3.1.1.1.1

              If mining is so hazardous why, until Pike, were there so few deaths in the last forty years? I seems to recall there have been only two.

              • Swampy

                vague recollection but about 8 in that time

                Boatmans Creek 4? in 1970s something?
                2 at Mt Davy probaly what your thinking of, Mt Davy mine closed since (1998
                1 or more at one of Francis Minings private mines somewhere on the coast (Roa?)
                1 drowned at Black reef private mine

                nz doesnt have a big mining industry very few underground mines

      • Swampy 9.3.2

        The miners union EPMU probably has a few tens of millions stashed away themselves as all Labour party unions aree very wealthy

  10. Bill 10

    Wonder how much of this lack of information and a seeming perception by those in authority that a substantive level of accountability is unnecessary, is due to the media culture developed and honed over the years?

    I’m referring to how issues are routinely reported in a descriptive rather than analytical fashion. I gave up watching NZ programmes that claimed to be informative some time ago ( 60 minutes 20/20 etc ) because they seemed incapable of imparting information or encouraging a thoughtful response. In a culture where no searching questions are asked and no thoughtful answers expected on matters of general concern or public interest; where statements and opinions replace any encouragement of inquiry, those in power or authority will ‘naturally’ expect to account for their actions to no greater level than suggested by that general culture. ie not at all.

    From avian flu to climate collapse or any number of specific issues, we have been ‘trained’ to settle for banal brush overs and brush offs; to expect emotive entanglement over intellectual engagement.

    So is it any surprise that whoever made the calls on Pike River should expect nothing beyond the media generating sentimental mash potato shmaltz in the ‘public mind’ over the fact that bodies are to lie unrecovered in a mine? And not much else? I think those in authority would be genuinely shocked if anything more substantive was suddenly expected of them.

    The media will focus on the displeasure of the families of the dead at Pike River. But they won’t go beyond that. They won’t encourage intellectual curiosity. They won’t search out information that might aid a rigorous intellectual analysis of what was what and why certain courses of action were pursued over others. These things are necessary precursors if accountability is sought.

    Real life is just soap opera and reality TV now. Quite an achievement if you pause to think about it.

  11. Simple fact is, the explosion happened and killed the miners due to inadequate safety procedures and lack of proper training…either way, it all comes back to the company for not managing the risk properly and the gov’t for not implementing higher health and safety standards.

    for that, all blame rests squarely at the feet of Whittal, Brownlee and Key !!!

    …everything else is just a distraction.

    IMHO

    • Joe Bloggs 11.1

      well that’s great – just saved the country millions on a Royal Commission….

      Aside from the inconvenient fact that if the miners had unexpectedly hit an unexpected trap or pocket of methane in a splintered seam, then no number of safety procedures would have been adequate – excepting perhaps open cast mining.

      • pollywog 11.1.1

        I’ll see your inconvenient fact Joe and raise you a mismanaged risk.

        No prizes for guessing which finding the royal commisssion will eventually go with ?

        sudden, unavoidable build up of methane and failure to shut down equipment fast enough.

        It’ll just be one of those unfortunate and unforeseen hazards miners have to deal with as part of the job

        The company will of course be seen to have explored every avenue to minimise the risk including using state of the art training, safety procedures and equipment in line with government regulations.

        cough *bullshit*cough

  12. prism 12

    Gerry Brownlee, Minister of everything – how I can’t understand – perhaps by being a thuggy, loud-mouth, self-promoter perhaps. He is being asked to act and bail out West Coast contractors to Pike River. Sort of like they did down in Canterbury where money was available to pay shiny-pants workers for their unwise, skewed investments. But for those who get up off their bums and get into the hard labour and trade jobs there is reluctance in the extreme.

    The talk is that the contractors entered into a commercial venture and that means they should be treated like any business. Bollocks. These are just ordinary blokes with skills who have been encouraged to gamble their wages on possibilities of making a bit more money as contractors which enables the mine to slim down its own direct labour force and consequent regulations and duties.

    Marx covered this situation I think. He referred to how lower classes can feel they are stepping up in the world when they improve their lot, but remain just one or two degrees of separation from poverty which can result from a reversal in their advancement schemes and fortunes.

    • Good point.

      What is the difference between South Cantebury Finance investors and Pike River contractors? Apart from the obvious one that one group got paid out $1.7 billion and the other group are only seeking about $8 million.

  13. aj 13

    I’d like to know how the mine temperatures have been measured/estimated. The top of the mine has many branches, they will only be making temperature measurements at the bore hole and ventilation shaft. Did they actually measure these temperatures at these points within the mine? or are they extrapolations from these points. I’d think it would be a long shot to suggest that the entire mine face was consumed by fire, fire was more likely to be present in pockets.
    Anyway. Without going in we’ll not find that out.
    Regarding ventilating methane. Yes, they would need to be sure all fires were completely out. What evidence do they have that fires are completely out? what are the temperatures in the mine now. We don’t know. Cards are been played so close to the chest here that even the players don’t seem to agree on what’s happening.

    • lprent 13.1

      They can only read tempatures from the vents and entranceway unless they have parts of the internal sensor net intact (which seems unlikely). Because the mine itself is inclined it’d be unlikely that they could predict.

      What evidence do they have that fires are completely out?

      Fires only burn when the combustible material or gas has something to chemically react against. In this case oxygen in the mines atmosphere. If there is no oxygen in the mines atmosphere then nothing is able to burn.

      It is possible that there are hot spots that could act as an ignition point if oxygen was introduced into the mine. They’d watch the tempatures at the vents to determine if the mine had any large hotspots left (hot gases rise). How effective that would be as a detection technique will be dependent on the geometry of the mine – but it should work if they track the drop in tempatures.

  14. Rich 14

    Can’t we just accept that while it might be technically possible to reenter the mine, the cost and risk to life is prohibitive in terms of the benefit gained?

    The only reason (apart from searching for a scapegoat) to identify precise causes of the accident is to enable safer mining in future. Why would this accident have different causes to the thousands of mine explosions that have happened since people started digging underground for coal?

    I know the NZ spiritual/religious consensus fetishes corpses more than almost any other society, which is partly a hangover from Maori tradition and partly a psychological meme, but can’t people be helped to move on without somebody else getting killed dragging out bodies. They’ll be pretty much soot by now anyway, after four explosions and temperatures over a thousand degrees.

    Block the entrances, flood it with water if possible and build a nice memorial. Then move on and make sure that current & future mines have more independent oversight over safety.

    • Swampy 14.1

      getting into the mine and searching from top to bottom to find the dead remains is a process taking days if not weeks/months all time with it risk of fire or explosion. i read somewhere they would go in the entrance and advance slowly. they would keep building walls at stages to wall off the part they werein from the next bit they hadnt yet proved safe. they have to keep taking the readings of the atmnosphere to see if its dangerous. to begin with they have to do all this by hand. maybe later they could re establish the ventialtion and use machinery safely.

      but in no means is its a simple or short process.
      I hink if you look up Strongman it took months before all the bodies were recovered and several set backs where mine had to be re sealed and evacuated again but at the end two could not be and were walled up in the burning part. although there s maps of underground they have only vague ideas where men were working so will have to search the whole mine which is rabbets warren of tunnels.

      what can be determine from the surface in terms of whats going on underground is incomplete. only a few sensors. guessing here the original sensors are destroyed.

      Its possible when mine has cooled down it could be re entered however that could be months off and maybe even re opened. no one really knows.

      • Colonial Viper 14.1.1

        Its possible when mine has cooled down it could be re entered however that could be months off and maybe even re opened. no one really knows.

        Dude, Key knew this when he was making all his promises on national TV, and everyone involved in the recovery project knew in Dec that it could take months.

        So what has changed, just a few weeks down the track?

        • Swampy 14.1.1.1

          police will be there 2 months at least stabilising it. without trying to go in. that is the difference. they are not trying to go in.

          also they are not pretending it might be possible to re open because it may never be possible.

          i suppose how long is piece of string. it may be. it may not be. for the moment a recovery operation is called off. no one has suggested this is permanent state of affairs.

    • Fisiani 14.2

      Stop being sensible. The point of this post is attempt to smear John Key . nothing else

  15. Swampy 15

    my words ANOTHER pike mine thread you fellas are really trying to prove something arent you

    Now the facts/ the mine is full of methane which is explosive/burnable all it takes is some air gets in in right amounts then it has prospect of exploding or catching fire which they dont want. or coal spontansly combusts.

    Soon as you open borehole you have chimney for natural flow of air as soon as entrance is re opened this air flows along with strong possiblity the mine will catch fire or expolode again. just as the big bore shaft got flames high out the top when the mines was on fire.

    whe Cliff says “conditions maintained” he means mine sealed so no air can get in which is in compatible with letting people go in. theres still methane being given out from the coal. if mine is sealed it cant go anywhere. change the conditions of the mine it could be on fire again or explode really quick. there is no ventilation system operating to draw the methane out safely with all the barriesr that make sure the air goes right round the inside to suck out the methane from everywhere so methane pockets can build up. & we still dont know why it exploded 19 Nov.

    stabilise means no more fires or explosions but its huge diffrence from being safe to go into or re open mine recover bodies etc. in this case probably it means full of methane with no air so coal cant burn & methane cant burn/explode. but not possible for people to go in.

    • Craig Glen Eden 15.1

      Making it safe to enter is the next faze swampy no one thought that the Gag was the beginning and the end of this process. So why have they stopped, we all know they cant go in in the current state but that should not be how it ends. Key has given a number of reasons that seem to contradict what others are saying, Keys PR as per normal makes no sense.

      Unless your a Herald reporter that is!

      • Swampy 15.1.1

        it maybe safe to re enter in future giving time which maybe months for cooling down-slow process continuosuly pumping nitrogen in which is still going.

        also the reasl question is what the boreholes are for. to let methane out as some suggest? or I would suggest to put in more monirting sensors to have better picture of conditions all across themine.

  16. Speaking Sense to Unions 16

    is it possible to have a link to where the recovery team say the operation is being called off because of cost.

    • Colonial Viper 16.1

      Actually I’d love a link with any technical information on why the recovery operation is being called off as well. Apparently, so would the miners’ families.

      • Speaking Sense to Unions 16.1.1

        Howard Broad has said that the peer-reviewed advice is that it is not possible to make the mine safe for re-entry. No doubt the full details will come out once the receivers have had a chance to suggest alternative methods.

        But if the expert opinion is that there’s no likellhood of re-entering the mine in the foreseeable future then I’m inclined to take their word for. Science, evidence etc.

        • Pascal's bookie 16.1.1.1

          ‘Howard Broad reckons’ is worthless.

          Why haven’t the families been kept in the loop? If HB has got all the evidence then why haven’t the families got it? Why the rush to announce the decision?

          That’s the question the governments defenders are ignoring.

          Why are the families having to resort to threatening court action?

          Are y’all satisfied that the government has seen them right?

          • Speaking Sense to Unions 16.1.1.1.1

            I think “Howard Broad reckons” has a lot more credibiltiy than “some blogger reckons”, but anyway it’s “Howard Broad – on the basis of expert advice – reckons”.

            • Colonial Viper 16.1.1.1.1.1

              So, where exactly is this expert report that Howard Broad reviewed as the basis of making his decision? Can we see it please.

              • Speaking Sense to Unions

                we’ll all get to see it after the families get to see it. seems reasonable.

                But are you suggesting that you’ll wait for information before joining the witch-hunt? Might not make you very popular with the other Standardistas.

                [lprent: Seems popular with you…. standardista. ]

                • Colonial Viper

                  we’ll all get to see it after the families get to see it. seems reasonable.

                  What in 2021? That’s reasonable?

                  How about last week eh buddy. Does that seem ‘reasonable’?

                  As for witch hunts, witches get burned at the stake in public, or drowned in public. I’ll be selling tickets.

                  • Speaking Sense to Unions

                    the Police are talking to the families this evening. (Also, the Police statement on Fri was directy after a meeting with the families).

                    Maybe people should wait for the facts before jumping to conclusions.

                    How’s that Wishart/The Standard conspiracy going? Will you guys be moving on to asking questions about Key’s sexuality?

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Oh, and speaking to families a week after decisions were being taken is your idea of consultation and keeping people in the loop?

                      A bit of good old fashioned damage control eh 🙂

                      Will you guys be moving on to asking questions about Key’s sexuality?

                      lame threadjack

                    • Pascal's bookie

                      It’s shame they’ve had to spend money on lawyers fees to get the information.

                      The govt should have been on top of this last week. They had a plan about passing the parcel, should have made sure all the stakeholders were up to speed.

            • vto 16.1.1.1.1.2

              Peer-reviewed expert advice…. ha ha ha. Imagine the ifs and buts in those. Nobody would be committing themselves to much I imagine, lest anybody such as Broad relies on such advice and they find themselves in the gun. So I imagine the expert reports and their peer reviews are excessively conservative and of limited use. Unless you are a political beast such as the Police Commissioner or a Prime Minister when of course such expert reports are perfect fodder for escaping the difficult decisions.

              Pathetic.

              Peer-reviewed advice. ha ha.

            • Pascal's bookie 16.1.1.1.1.3

              “Howard Broad – on the basis of expert advice that he hasn’t shown to anyone, not even the families who were promised to be kept in the loop – reckons”.

              That question again. Ignored.

              It’s almost like they can’t see it.

    • Blighty 16.2

      is it possible to get a link as to where the recovery team says the operation was called off due to a fatal technical hurdle?

      is it possible to get any clear, uncontradicted information at all?

      If not, isn’t the lack of such info very strange?

  17. Treetop 17

    Muldoon could not walk away from Erebus as the government owned the airline. Erebus occurred in one of the most harsh and remote places in the world. The cops who did body recovery at Erebus are to be admired, not like the puppet who needs to stand up to the government as it is his call to SERVE and PROTECT the people when negligence is obvious.

    • Treetop 17.1

      Better to have said ,when negligence cannot be ruled out.

      • Colonial Viper 17.1.1

        Well looks to me that even if the accident in the mine was not contributed to by negligence, the progress of this investigation will be.

    • Swampy 17.2

      it is was not remote because there were established settlments and supoort based nearby. Its only a flight away from Scotts base or Mcmurdo with all the logistics they needed

      but if the remains of bodies were at the boottom of the sea inststead of the mountain side no one would be suggesting diving if it was hazardus to get down there so that is the more obvious comparison

      • Treetop 17.2.1

        The police got the support and logistics they needed at Erebus, unlike with Pike River. One would think that a 2.5 km tunnel was at the bottom of the sea.

        Until the families of the 29 Pike River miners are satisfied that all that reasonable can be done to enter the mine has been done, only then, entering the mine is over.

        • Richard 17.2.1.1

          Until the families of the 29 Pike River miners are satisfied that all that reasonable can be done to enter the mine has been done, only then, entering the mine is over.

          That’s when it is over for them, sure.

          But continuing with the recovery operation until the people most emotionally invested in it are satisfied is not neccessarially the best basis on which to make decisions.

          There may come a time, when it is too costly to proceed, and not everyone will agree about when that time is. The person who ultimately makes that decision is the person holding the purse strings, which is Key (or the wider government, at least).

          The problem that Key has is whether he can demonstrate to the majority of people that his decision was good. The families of the 29 are important, of course, but they are not the sole concern.

          There are not many good options here, but it would be worse (I think) if Key persisted in continuing with a dangerous, highly expensive, but technically feasible plan, merely because he could not stomach the bad publicity with ending the recovery operation.

          • Pascal's bookie 17.2.1.1.1

            “The problem that Key has is whether he can demonstrate to the majority of people that his decision was good. The families of the 29 are important, of course, but they are not the sole concern.”

            Hopefully that strawman won’t be troubling us any longer, seeing you dispatched it so thoroughly.

            The point is that the families feel the need to threaten court action. It looks no one even tried to demonstrate to them that this decision was good.

            So you tell me how important have they been in the government’s reckoning?

            • Richard 17.2.1.1.1.1

              The point is that the families feel the need to threaten court action. It looks no one even tried to demonstrate to them that this decision was good.

              So? That is Key’s problem.

              It doesn’t in and of itself mean that the decision was the wrong one. Which is I think the problem with getting real milage out of this issue. The process of making and communicating the decision is bad, without a doubt — but that is par for the course, for this government.

              The decision to not continue with recovery efforts because they are too expensive, certainly feels like a bad thing, but it doesn’t seem to be something that is actually the fault of the NACTs. It is just something unfortunate. Whatever Key said, there is a limit to what can be afforded.

              • Colonial Viper

                but it doesn’t seem to be something that is actually the fault of the NACTs. It is just something unfortunate.

                What, “it is just something unfortunate” like an unattributable Act of God?

                Get off it, people in responsible positions made these decisions and they are not telling us why. That is in no way shape or form acceptable, and you should not be dispersing their accountability into the ether.

                Whatever Key said, there is a limit to what can be afforded.

                Yeah how about they take 0.5% of the coal reserves to pay for the recovery operation if you are so worried about ‘affordability’. $20M enough to keep going for now? Is getting the bodies for the families and finding out the truth worth 0.5% of the Pike River reserves?

              • Pascal's bookie

                “So? That is Key’s problem.”

                Process is important, It’s important that those families are involved in these discussions and are kept in the loop. It’s not just fucking optics. I don’t give a flying rat’s about mileage, because I’m not a politician. I’m not even a member of a political party. I’m a citizen, and so are those families.

                As a citizen I want those families to be treated right, just like we promised to treat them right. That means get the process right. The way this has played out is not unfortunate, it’s FUBAR. Having a FUBAR govt that doesn’t treat it’s citizens right is not just Key’s problem.

                Your mileage obviously varies, and that’s fine, but I’m not that interested in talking about the political mileage of this.

                As in most things, I don’t really give a shit about ‘how it looks out there in voter land’ or any of the other meaningless phrases journamalists and dupes discuss. That’s because absent polling, it’s all just projection.

                I’d rather talk with citizens about what they themselves reckon about the issues, rather than about what they reckon what everyone else, on aggregate, reckons.

          • Treetop 17.2.1.1.2

            Do not preempt that the families are not capable of sound decision making, which is reliant on being properly informed of all the facts.

            NASA can go to the moon, look at the robots they have which do the most complicated and intricate manoeuvers. Were I a family member I would want to hear from NASA before I gave up.

            • Swampy 17.2.1.1.2.1

              No one asked Nasa to bring any thing into the mine rescue scenaro and inddeed they do not have any thing that can go underground in this type of sutation.

              The auzzies have the most technology and thats not amounted to much. to go very long distance under ground the robot must carry very long cable which has to be well protected against hazard. imagine this cable getting caught or snagged then robot has to turn around & free it. etc.

              better analogy is ROVs used in Gulf oil spill wich have advantage they are in water & therefore dont need to be able to drive along sea bed.

        • Swampy 17.2.1.2

          a 2. km tunnel filled with highly explosive-flamable gas that can be ignited any moment and which cant be breathen in as there isnt oxgen is worse than being under water. there are hazards in under water diving but not so much that the police dont have a dive squad or there havent been many sucessful underwater operations. but for going into a mine full of explosive gas there have been many explosions and death of rescuers.

        • Swampy 17.2.1.3

          if the tunnel was vertical and full of water then it would be the same.

          you have to get your head round the idea that a tunnel that length full of explosive gas with no breathable air is a massive risk to any rescuers.

        • Swampy 17.2.1.4

          every one elses moving on but they arent

          Will in a couple of days they will cos its all fizzin g out now

          consider that National would have got a lot of kudos if they had been able to get the recover to happen its not a popular decision but everyone will understand it is just the way things are

          as it is the MSM have moved on already its hard to find anything in todays news websites and if theres was any hint the official line could be wrong they would be all over it but thats not happening is it. only goofy making a lot of hot air.

      • mcflock 17.2.2

        “but if the remains of bodies were at the boottom of the sea inststead of the mountain side no one would be suggesting diving if it was hazardus to get down there so that is the more obvious comparison”

        Apart from the fact that the sea floor is an open environment, so any effort to, for example, alter the tides or halt currents (or any other equivalent to altering the mine atmosphere or stabilise tunnels) would be farcicle.

        The Erebus recovery operation is an excellent analogy – an extended operation that was at the whim of some major factors (e.g. weather suddenly turning), but with resources and planning managed to safely recover remains AND important evidence for the subsequent Royal Commission.

        • Swampy 17.2.2.1

          bulldust. erebus is but a short flight from scott or macmurdo base by helicopter & flying there poses no health risk or explosion or noxious gases or any of the risks at Pike if the minese resscue service had gone in. generally hazards of flying at antartica are temporay short term and no way comparble to the ongroing short & long term risk of going into Pike mine.

          • Colonial Viper 17.2.2.1.1

            You’re the only person I’ve ever heard of saying that a recovery operation of weeks duration off a mountain in Antarctica, is somehow safer than Pike River. The specific risks are different, yes, but they are no less real.

            You also failed to refute any of the parallels that mcflock raised.

            The Erebus disaster also outlines the importance of getting to the site of the incident and recovering all the physical evidence possible. We’ve had people on this thread say that looking at the paper work and making a few likely guesses from a distance is sufficient.

            Well *that* is the real bulldust.

            • Swampy 17.2.2.1.1.1

              easy to refute comparisons with erebus. its no more remote from civilisation than pike river. at the time the crash occurred aircraft as big as a 747 were able to fly in any amount of supplys or fly back to NZ in less than 5 hours. the DC10 could have landed at Mcmurdo base if they had had a mech failure and all the people taken off & flown back to NZ in a couple of days without any health risk.

              erebus itself is about the same distance from mcmurdo base as Pike River is from greymouth, about 10-15 minute helo flight from a base that has all gear needed to support the recovery operation & accomodate people off plane though they would be stretched for a few days its really no differet to Greymouth. not really remote at all. a long way from NZ or argentina but not a long way from a support base that could sustain rescue of 257 people if they had to and which had a runway capable of taking the largest planes in the world

              the hazards of getting round antartica are well known predicatable and manageable so that there are bases there with people living year round. there was no more difficulty than the field partys face all the time out there which is much less.

              now for the true level of comparison to pike River think if the aircraft had crashed on the ice and gone through to the bottom of the sea at that point if it was below human diving depth. trying to recover stuff from the bottom of the sea is the true equivalent of trying to get into a mine at Pike river which is full of dangerous noxious and explosive gases. the hazards of working under water at depths to deep to be dived humany are similar. as it was in the gulf oil spill when everything has to be done by ROVs very slowly & clumsily. at such depths theres no way bodies could be recovered. just like no recovery was attempted off the oil rig that fell to the sea floor at Macondo.

            • Swampy 17.2.2.1.1.2

              “You’re the only person I’ve ever heard of saying that a recovery operation of weeks duration off a mountain in Antarctica, is somehow safer than Pike River. ”

              How about being honest and admiting that mcflock is the only person youve ever hear comparing the two.

              Either that or you are listening to to much talk back radio

              No one anywhere else has compared the two its only in this forum that any such comparisons being made.

              • mcflock

                “How about being honest and admiting that mcflock is the only person youve ever hear comparing the two.”

                Swampy, I was responding to your comments about Erebus. You were responding to Treetop. You idiot.

                You’re also the first person I’ve ever heard referring to travelling in Antartica as “predictable and manageable”. As predictable and manageable as weather and crevasses. If it was so bloody safe, the plane wouldn’t have crashed in the first place.

                And if you really want to do the “ooo sank thousands of metres after the crash” analogy, the difference is that there is the possibility of draining the mine of explosive gases in weeks or months.

                Is recovery certain? No. Making the decision to quit after a month of trying, when everyone knew it would be a longer term job, is pretty pathetic. And if it’s a question of budget rather than perserverence, that’s pretty callous.

                • Treetop

                  mcflock you beat me to it.

                  Swampy argue semantics all you want to. I am sorry that you did not take me up on my main point which is that the government do not own the Pike River mine and the difference this would make to the recovery/entry to the mine if they were the owners of the mine. It is election year.

                  Disaster recovery work is dangerous work, I raised Erebus because:
                  Temperature was constanly below freezing, (risk of hypothermia).
                  Sudden change in weather conditions (to minus 40 degrees).
                  Sudden change in wind created flying jaggered wreckage.
                  Crevasses of unknown depth
                  24 hour daylight (sleep diruptions).
                  16 hour shifts (exhaustion and fatigue).
                  Site 760 m above sea level and on a 14 degree slope.

                  If Mc Murdo sound is so accessible why is a DC 10 still embedded in Mt Erebus?

                  Not only would I consult NASA I would consult the military as well for solutions.

                  • Richard

                    In what fantasy world would NASA or the military be of any use for this operation?

                    If solutions exist they exist in the mining industry.

                    Other options might possibly be emergancy services trained for (civilian) nuclear accidents or recovery operations from other contaminated industrial accidents. But in both cases, they are probably focussed on containment rather than entering the site.

                    • Treetop

                      Google NASA and methane research and take your pick.

                      I also think that the military know a thing or two about detection and going through rock and how this can safely be done.

                      As for the mining industry experts who constructed the Pike River mine I would like to know why 29 very brave men did not return home.

                    • Richard

                      Google NASA and methane research and take your pick.

                      Knowing stuff about (terrestial or otherwise) atmospheric methane is a great deal different to having practical equipment that is suitable for functioning in an obstructed tunnel filled with methane.

                      And while, NASA apparently has research programmes looking at the use of methane as a rocket fuel, it’s a pretty good bet that rule one is “stand well back and don’t walk into the engine”.

                      I also think that the military know a thing or two about detection and going through rock and how this can safely be done.

                      Detection of methane gas? What reason would the military have for having this information or equipment?

                      Other than “blowing up bunkers” in what sense does the military have experience in “going through rock”?

                    • mcflock

                      Actually, while I’m not sure the military is the right way to go, the US army corps of engineers has a long history of large scale civilian engineering projects. It’s not all “blowing up bunkers”. It includes dams, bridges and deep bunkers.

                      Similarly NASA has some interesting designs for working in extreme environments.

                      But really we don’t need them – we have some interesting companies in NZ, and could probably make specialist tools ourselves.

                    • Treetop

                      You can be as selective as you want to be about methane articles to fit your idea that NASA are thick when it comes to methane research. Last time I saw footage of the moon there is rock on it.

                      And the military still use swords and the sun.

                    • Richard

                      …the US army corps of engineers has a long history of large scale civilian engineering projects

                      Of course, but it is difficult to see what knowledge or equipment they would have access to that their civilian counterparts would not have.

                      Similarly NASA has some interesting designs for working in extreme environments.

                      Sure. Do you think that they have equipment that is available and remotely suitable for the current problem?

                      I don’t think that a solar powered robot buggy with an on-board soil analysis micro-laboratory, and designed to operate with limited telemetry, is quite what we are after.

                      If you are looking for equipment designed to work in a hazardous mine, it seems that the best solutions will be in the mining industry.

                    • Treetop

                      Richard you said “detection of methane gas?” I said detection. NASA to solve the release of the methane and the military to get into the mine to do surveying using methods which do not involve a person entering the mine.

                    • Richard

                      You can be as selective as you want to be about methane articles to fit your idea that NASA are thick when it comes to methane research.

                      I don’t think that NASA are “thick” about methane research, I just don’t see how their methane research is relevant.

                      What do you imagine that NASA can tell anybody about methane, that is relevant to this situation, that any university geology/mining department couldn’t tell us?

                    • Richard

                      Richard you said “detection of methane gas?” I said detection.

                      That was why I asking for clarification.

                      …and the military to get into the mine to do surveying using methods which do not involve a person entering the mine.

                      It is difficult to imagine what might be usefully done in this way by the military. The situation here is not remotely like what any military technology would be designed to do.

                      NASA to solve the release of the methane…

                      I’m glad that’s so easy. It must be because rocket scientists are experts at venting gases from mines?

                    • mcflock

                      Now you’re just talking up problems.

                      Industry can provide highly specialised experts and equipment.
                      The military can provide large numbers of people who can follow the instructions of their own trained specialists. Not to mention extensive use of robots.

                      Nasa are a viable candidate on the list of “people to ask”. Experience in remote operations of vehicles in hostile environments, including the use of non-solar onboard power systems. I’d actually look to entrants in the DARPA Challenge as well – they will have access to parts and expertise onsite.

                      Industry might have someone working on units for recovery/surveys of collapsed mines, but would probably concentrate more on actual running mines. Other people to contact include some of the innovative companies looking into disaster recovery robots, for e.g. examining collapsed building voids and drains (although one lot seems to be tethered power&telemetry, while the other main path is wireless so would have signal failure pretty quick. I suppose you could have independently powered wireless extenders dropped along the way, like Hansel & Gretel).

                      The point is that the government seem to be pulling the plug pretty quick, and with mixed messages around the viability of the mine or recovery. Key has also seemed to talk up the problems (discussed in other threads) beyond what even their experts will commit to – remember the rescue crews that refused to go in? Haven’t had any other sources for that, except Key.

                      Basically, it’s all very easy to say that “nothing can be done, it won’t work”. The real question is “how hard did you look for an alternative?”

                    • Richard

                      Now you’re just talking up problems.

                      I’m just not feverishly fantasising about some magical military technology that will save the day.

                      Nasa are a viable candidate on the list of “people to ask”

                      Only if you are writing a movie script starring Bruce Willis.

                      We have been through the whole saga of trying to find robots and expertise in the immediate week after the first explosion. There didn’t seem to be anything really suitable in the way of robots then, why would there be something suitable now?

                      If you want a magical robot, the only option is to build something. And I doubt that there is the funding available for that..

                    • Treetop

                      Richard you are too quick to dismiss the use of anything/anyone else before you are even aware of the possibilities out there.

                    • mcflock

                      Richard, you are actually aware that both the military and Nasa have extensive experience developing and deploying remotely controlled / autonomous ground vehicles in real world situations on Earth? That these devices are generally developed by private contractors and university departments according to design competition specs? That not only might these folk be reasonably interested in helping, they might even have adaptable equipment on the shelf?

                      And that such devices might assist in surveying the mine (and measuring gas and temperature levels within the mine shaft) prior to anyone going in, improving the safety assessment of an entry operation?

                      Shit sake, these aren’t magical fantasy devices, nor are we expecting Bruce Willis. The worst you can say is that they might be expensive and are largely untested in this situation (hence why one of them conked out in the mine – it didn’t occur to folk being advised by experts that it might get really wet).

                      You really aren’t one for lateral thinking, are you?

                    • Swampy

                      we were offered the best in the world because nothingexists in the world

                      Im surprised all these people are claiming Nasa or anyone has the gear to go underground.

                      CSIRO in auzzie is world leading in robotics for mining and they do not have any substantial thing developed. MOD got bad mouthed because there robot got hit by a stream of water and shorted. yet it was the best available at the time. it is a defence robot not designed to go into adverse conditions like a mine.

                      Militarys wordlwide do not have more than the defence robots our forces supplyed. there is just one govt lab in the states that is developing robots for this scenario but there just not ready yet.

                      you can easily check this out by googling it as i have. the reknowned mining experts at time of the disaster said nothing exists on a worl wide scale. sad but true.

                  • Swampy

                    whether the goverment own the mine or not make no difference.

                    in antartica when they crash a plane they leave the wreckage check and you”ll find there are a number of wrecks left there over the years they just get buried in snow drifts like erebus.

                • Swampy

                  really do you believe that it was not the nav error at air NZ hq that caused the planes pilots to think they were in the wrong place. also they should not have been flying the conditions. Dont forget will you that there was real questions coming out in the inquirys whether Air NZ should have even had the flights going on down there because of the hazardous conditions that need special training.

                  when the US air force flys down there from NZ they sometimes get there then they cant land due to storm conditions so they have to turn around and fly all the way back to Nz depending on the plane. some planes only get halfway then have to turn back if there is a snow storm. and its not unusual for flights from NZ to be cancelled due to bad weather before they even take off. but I bet the air NZ since they werent going to land had no idea of the conditions.

                  • McFlock

                    Yes we know pretty much why the plane crashed. Some of the evidence that helped confirm some of the causes was recovered from the crash site.

                    Let me get this straight – when the plane crashed, getting there involved “hazardous conditions that need special training”. But recovering the bodies and wreckage was “really no differet to Greymouth. not really remote at all. ”

                    Goodnight.

                • Swampy

                  Broad is about the first realist so far. well and truly needed for this. it could take 2 years and they might not re open the part with the bodys in it. world wide sealing up bodies inside a mine isnt uncommon and theres several mines in NZ have done this.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    Broad the realist with the expert report he based his decision on.

                    Where is the report? Why has it not been released to us – and if not us – to the families, so that they can understand the decision?

        • Swampy 17.2.2.2

          can you tell me how going into a mine full of explosive gases, complete darkness, no oxygen except what your carrying, every step risks setting off the explosion, could be on fire. could be up to 1000 degrees etc. compares with going to erebus.

          do you have any understanding that saetting up the field camp at erebus was routine. scientific research partys on the Ice set up field camps like this all the time. and weather is factored in. they are about 15 minutes flight time from a well resourced base. and in radio contact. the work they had to do was difficult but the dificuly on the ice was only slightly more than it would be on a snow covered mountain in NZ

          do you then have any understanding that going into a underground mine under the conditions described is not routine. the routine is to seal the mine up or try to make the atmophere no explosive or enough air in it to breathe, put the fire out etc. people have been killed by further explosions when going into mines that are hazardous like that.

          right now that mine is not safe to enter for perhaps 2 years according to the expert advice. wheras right now there are field partys on the ice at Antartica just like there are every year.

          • mcflock 17.2.2.2.1

            ” the work they had to do was difficult but the dificuly on the ice was only slightly more than it would be on a snow covered mountain in NZ”

            Right. People never die on mountains in NZ.

            • Swampy 17.2.2.2.1.1

              People die on mountan sides who do not have proper equipment for conditions. in antartica even when they are inside the the air craft they are wearing cold weather clothing – in good part because the aircraft are almost as cold as the outside air since the military do not heat there planes.

              in antartica they put out field partys in tents lkike at Erebus all the time at that time of year. the teams at erebus got all the gear they needed to do there job and deal with the conditions including a couple of snow storms. this is what everyone is trained for before they leave nz to go to the ice. they are all trained in survival skills and mountaneering etc. and there were ,moutaneers sent out to work with the erebus teams.

              • McFlock

                So they assessed the risks, mitigated them as much as possible with training, timing and equipment, and proceeded when it was as safe as possible to do so.

                The concern here is that the decision about continuing was not open, the families were not clearly informed, qualified workers prepared to help were told “it won’t work” with no further information, and smile & wave is throwing things into the mix that nobody else has to make it appear futile, like teams refusing to go in and lots of rubble.
                The parallel with Erebus would be if they’d filled a plane with gear to fly down, then said “it’s off”, and Muldoon drip-fed comments like “it’s pretty cold” and “the weather might go bad” and so on. From Hawaii.

  18. orange whip? 18

    Good to see so many mining experts on the standard today. Swampy, will you be consulting directly with the families of the deceased? They could use your expertise and so far they’re getting squat.

  19. Just announced that the families will seek an injunction to stop the closing of the mine. A very distressed relative was just on Radio New Zealand.

  20. bobo 20

    With the receiver already seemingly taking overseas offers for the mine which to my mind is like trying to sell a car wreck for scrap with the bodies still inside.. The government were all over the funeral like a rash now when actual actions and follow through is required good old smile and walk away wants the poor families to “move on” .. opportunist wanker of the first degree . Lets compare this incident to a 747 plane crash where millions are spent to recover every piece of wreckage and then painstakingly piece it together in a hanger over years if need be to try and find the cause.. yeah yeah this issue is slightly harder in the sense of the conditions of recovery or say exploration of the mine but don’t tell me a couple of months after we have exhausted every option… bull shit..

    • Lanthanide 20.1

      “where millions are spent to recover every piece of wreckage and then painstakingly piece it together in a hanger over years if need be to try and find the cause.”

      This money is spent by whom, the national aviation safety committees, the air lines or the maker of the aeroplane? Who ultimately pays the bill for the work? I think probably the air lines and aeroplane makers, not the state. The parallel entity in this case would be Pike River Coal, who are bankrupt, which is the whole problem.

      • Colonial Viper 20.1.1

        Stuff Pike River Coal, they were just an operating shell, time to target who owns the underlying asset, which is the four billion dollar coal seam.

        Enough money there?

        • Speaking Sense to Unions 20.1.1.1

          four billion dollars!! and just one mine!! just think what other resources there are. Oh we tried to but some people didn’t want to know.

          one slight problem with that 4 billion though is the means of accessing it is a smouldering time bomb. Given the Capitalist Lust For Money and Disregard For Human Lives it’s rather odd they might seal the mine. Perhaps it is after all, like the experts say, too dangerous to try and get in there and will be for some time.

          • Colonial Viper 20.1.1.1.1

            it’s rather odd they might seal the mine.

            Prevents a full investigation into the physical evidence, an investigation which might put their little billion dollar mining project (and other associated ones) at risk.

            Given the Capitalist Lust For Money and Disregard For Human Lives

            See above.

            • Speaking Sense to Unions 20.1.1.1.1.1

              any new owner would not be culpable for what ever failings there were witht the Pike River company. They would have no reason to keep the mine closed but every reasion to get it open as there still is 4 billion dollars.

              Still I see your point, there is indeed a conspiracy between the Police, the Govt and the receivers to hide evidence.

              • Colonial Viper

                And might not be a conspiracy, laissez faire mishandling fits the bill too

                any new owner would not be culpable for what ever failings there were witht the Pike River company.

                A 0.5% stamp duty on the sale of the coal seam to any new owner will pay for any recovery operations just fine.

      • mcflock 20.1.2

        “ultimately” is somewhat irrelevant – investigations and recoveries are paid by the government services initially, with the exceptions of volunteers (who are unpaid, by definition).

        In air investigations, the CAA levies all pilots directly an annual sum which pays for most/all its operations, but I’m unsure about the TAIC offhand.

        SAR and fire service callouts can result in the responsible parties (i.e. the ones who failed to sign out of a DoC hut or whatever, or by some other idiot action of neglect sparked a search) can be levied the cost of the search, but this isn’t usually done.

    • vto 21.1

      So the receivers play a delay card and lob it back to the police / govt.

      Clearly the entire issue is still way too raw and fresh and liable to explode (politically and locally) for anyone in any authoritative position to deal with in a mature manner.

      chicken shit …… bock bock

      • Pascal's bookie 21.1.1

        http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/pike-river-2010/66434/efforts-to-stabilise-pike-river-mine-to-continue

        The head of the union representing miners says rescue teams were working toward a plan to retrieve the bodies before the police announcement that they were ending their recovery operation.
        Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary Andrew Little says the 108-day plan to re-enter the mine was put together before Christmas at the request of police, with a view to entering the mine in March or April this year.
        Mr Little says the police say their experts reviewed the plan and doubted that it would succeed.
        However, he says the families have been left in the dark about what information police used to make their decision to end the recovery effort and he understands the rescue teams were happy with the progress at the mine.

        • McFlock 21.1.1.1

          “the police say their experts reviewed the plan and doubted that it would succeed”

          Did the EPMU get feedback on their plan? If not then it’s a misunderstanding of the term “review”, as in “peer review”. Normally you fire off the initial work (article, paper for presentation, whatever), and it comes back with actual comments from the reviewer(s?) as to why it’s rejected. A common and less soul-destroying way to look at submitting articles is to ask “who shall we submit to for first rejection?”, because there’s almost always something your team has missed or could have explored further. Then you look at the reviewer’s comments and improve the work.

          Just saying “nope” is not a path to success.

  21. Drakula 22

    This is a very messey business indeed, this seems to be what happens when big business literally undermines our national parks!!!

    And if Brownlee and co had their way there would be more Pike Rivers!!!

    Don’t you think we need politicians in there to promote alternative energy? which includes a refusal to export coal oversease?

    As it stands we export so that our clients can get their hands dirty contributing to global warming.

    While our politicians do a Pontious Pilate and wash their hands!!!!

  22. Marjorie Dawe 23

    Yep. Its all about these Nat business and banking lackeys!!

  23. prism 24

    The Pike River management whoever it is, cannot organise to get the mine producing and start taking out more coal but not recover the miners’ bodies
    (which seems what they are considering).

    First, how would it be safe to resume mining after the catastrophic failure they have already demonstrated in their ability to handle this difficult mine. Second, it would be wrong to leave their workers’ bodies mouldering away without effort to recover them while they work around them.

    Jerrycan’t says that there is a lot of rubble. Mightn’t that contain a lot of coal? In that case it could be both shifted and used. I don’t hear radio reports advising just what is going on, don’t see a newspaper often, but the miners’ families themselves are not being fully informed – they should have a number of representatives who sit in on all discussions. They deserve to know the background and why particular decisions are made.

    The rest of us need to know how that our country’s industry works to as good a standard as is possible, workers health and safety are regulated, and how our tax is being spent. You often hear what seems cant about ‘hard working taxpayers’ who are held in high esteem, but even those in paid work aren’t given the respect due to them under that banner when a dose of reality reveals the truth.

    • Swampy 24.1

      Yes they can. the can develop a new part of the mine just like strongman which the burning part was sealed up with 2 bodies still inside as today.

      if they got into the same part recovering would be mandatory but who says they are going to that part. most underground mines have parts sealed up that no one goes into so theres nothing new in that.

      as for rubble if the roof has fallen in its not going to be easy to get into such areas may not be worth it.

  24. prism 25

    For reference – google heading of 3news about nz mine disasters – 25 Nov 2010 … Pike River joins list of NZ mining disasters. … In 1967, at the Strongman mine , northeast of Greymouth, an explosion killed 19 miners. …

    Swampy says that two bodies are still in Strongman and Pike River may open and branch in new directions. The roof may have collapsed etc. and the men may not be able to be recovered. Whatever, the enquiry needs to be carried out and clear, accurate testimony given.

    Finally there must be commitment to keeping the men as safe as possible. They should not be treated as disposable. The Strongman disaster was 19, just over 40 years later, another one. What had been done to prevent another one? What had been learned in mining technique since then? And now it has happened, every effort should be made to get machinery that will limit the danger as they probe to see if they can be brought out, or as many as possible.

  25. Treetop 26

    I have started a new number to 17.2.2.1.1.2 to reply to Swampy’s 18 January 2011 at 10:57 pm post above.

    ” we were offered the best in the world because nothing exists in the world.”
    A fourth robot, the explosion proof Androus Wolverine Robort, nicknamed V2, had been due to arrive…”

    “However rescuers, decided there was no need after the explosion.”
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/pike-river-mining-disaster/4391600/Good-progress-made

    Well the best offer in the world did not arrive Swampy. I cannot be assurred that this sort of mentality by those running the Pike River mine recovery has not been repeated.

    Also in the above link note that Whittal says the GAG could take weeks to several weeks.

    More on V2:
    http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2010/11/23/5516701-a-robot-cut-out-for-mine-rescue-work

    Lessons for NASA from Chile rescue

    Actually a lesson for those running the Pike River mine rescue and a suggestion to the family advocate of the involved families. I do not feel that victim support is adequate in dealing with the psychology of Pike River. NASA did a great job for the Chilean miners and were they contacted and invited to Pike River (a team of two trauma psychologists, one for the recovery team and another to advise the families) this could be an asset for all and not an experiment.

    Another suggestion is for the families to contact Professor Tony Taylor, (trauma consultant and he was involved with the trauma issues of Erebus in 1979) he is in his early 80’s and him and I had many a conversation over how the Police treated me. I heard Taylor on the radio around mid last year and I can assure you he is as sharp as I remenber him to be.

    Swamy I also disagree with you that Broad is a realist, just look at the police culture at the Office of the Commissioner of Police.

    Mc Flock your above posting on 18 January 2011 at 11.48 pm, Collins diary was recovered and then the contents vanished.

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