Monday 22 November 2010

Pike River Mine disaster grips New Zealand

Those following the Pike River mine disaster on New Zealand rugged South Island West Coast, will have learn't little, as there has been no progress at all on the situation in three days for the 29 trapped.

This morning's Press in Christchurch, where I still am, shows a grimed-faced Tony Kokshoorn, Greymouth's mayor, saying things are not looking good.

"There is a realisation that with every day that ticks by, things become even worse," Kokshoorn said.

Sadly, he's right. This mine accident is not comparably to the Chilean rescue, in that the Pike mine has dangerous and volatile gas, and it appears not be dissipating.

NZPA reported this morning...
  • Prime Minister John Key says he is praying that the 29 men trapped at Pike River are safe.

    “I just pray to God that they are alive,” he said. "Obviously we need to begin a rescue as soon as we practically can, and we just pray that they have managed to secure an oxygen source.”
Pray to god? A commenter on KiwiBlog said that some local primary schools just banned Christmas, and questioned if teachers would find it appropriate for the Prime Minister to offend the Muslims, Buddhists and other religions like this? The tragedy aside, it's an interesting question, even as a lapsed Catholic. No where's my halo...

However, I suspect many Kiwis will be praying for a good outcome, but the delay of any rescue commencing, is not promising a positive outcome.

Here's what Russell Smith said, one of the two escaping survivors said, following the blast...
  • “Because I wasn’t as far up … the explosion wasn’t as bad for me. It just bowled me over and knocked me unconscious and someone dragged me about 300 metres, brought me around and then two of us held each other to get out of the mine.”

    Mr Smith described the explosion as quick and without heat or smell.

    “I just remember seeing a flash of something in front of me and then the concussion hit me. It wasn’t just a bang. It just kept coming, kept coming, kept coming.
    So I crouched down as low as I could in the seat to try to get behind this metal door [on the loader he was driving] to stop being pelted with all this debris … I just couldn’t breathe and that’s the last I could remember and then someone found me about 15 minutes or so later.”

    Mr Smith said the next thing he remembers is looking out of the ambulance as it was driving into Greymouth.
As is now the case with most traditional media, they jump off to social networking sites to fill in the news. Ben Rockhouse, the younger brother of Daniel who escaped and rescued Russell Smith, who was thrown is one on the trapped 29 miners. Ben and Daniel's father is the mine's safety and training manager. On his Facebook page last Thursday, the day before he entered River River Mine for his shift, he scribed the following prolific message...
  • I'm sick and tired of being so fucking accident prone. Can't go a day without hurting myself or a month without almost dieing -.-
It has also emerged that a West Coast geologist warned in a report three years ago about the threat of a gas explosion at Pike River...
  • "A pit bottom with deep, highly gassy coals and the associated risk of "outburst", or gas or water-pressure- forced explosions, outwards at the coalface. The presence of an active fault that needed to be crossed underground with a zone of considerable and sustained ground stresses.
    A degree of uncertainty about the difficulties in accessing the resource due to geological structure, plus the risk of environmental damage from subsidence and "acid mine drainage".
No rescue attempt has commenced as yet.

In 1995, 14 school children and teachers died when a scenic viewing platform collapsed into a 30-metre chasm in Paparoa National Park, not far from Pike River. The Minister of Conservation resigned over claims of negligence.

Meanwhile, 28 miners are trapped in a underground flood yesterday, in southwestern China, in the latest accident involving the country's disaster-prone mines, considered the deadliest in the world.


KitchenSlut said...

I wouldn't put too much emphasis on the geologists report from three years ago. This seems to actually refer to 'outbursting' which is a different phenomenon from the explosion that has happened. There is nothing there per se that indicates this mine is operating in conditions abnormal from other mines with methane.

KitchenSlut said...

Sadly it's RIP. Something many of us with some coal mining background suspected from the early hours! It wasn't Chile and time mattered! That is not a criticism for not going in earlier I doubt it would have mattered anyway?

Following this in the MSM is so difficult trying to second call from deficient reports. I have made some private comments and judgements which were wrong mostly because media reports were themselves in denial on the reality or unreported for the sake of hope or whatever?

Most importantly, apart from recovery, it's essential to get back in here to discover what happened. There have been some mining enquiries where frankly the outcome has not been illuminating especially with enquiries headed by media tart lawyers!

Immediately following the explosion I looked through the ASX releases for this and what struck me was how much the economics have changed since the Asia crisis of the late 90's. The transport costs alone would have rendered this project uneconomic ten years ago.

I feel for the people. I did have some contact with the CEO Peter Whittal when he first started in mining in 1981 with the same company i worked for in a similar position. Yes, I remember the year.

When I left this industry one of the last things I left was the report of the Gretly enquiry in NSW, where a relative of people I knew died. I read the report which resulted in criminal prosecutions for people in the same statutory position as myself and simply concluded that I would have done nothing diffent.....