Media Releases

Mine work deferred for week

Sunday, November 13, 2016 - 17:26

Work on decommissioning the Pike River Mine will be deferred this week in the run up to the sixth anniversary of the disaster, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith said today.

“We recognise it is an emotional time for the families with the first stage of the mine sealing completed last week, and the sixth anniversary of the disaster next weekend. We also wish to avoid any tension for Solid Energy staff and its contractors with the protest action blocking the road access to the mine. Solid Energy has deferred any further work on the site aside from safety inspections for the next week. I am also having a scheduled meeting with families on Wednesday evening in Greymouth.

Solid Energy has been undertaking the decommissioning work of the Pike River Mine to make the site safe and allow the area to be returned to the Department of Conservation for inclusion in the Paparoa National Park. Solid Energy is working to replace the existing temporary seal with a permanent ‘Type C’ mine seal and the work is required to be completed by 30 November in accordance with an improvement notice issued by the High Hazards Unit of WorkSafe New Zealand. This concrete seal 30 meters down the drift was largely installed last week with about a week’s work required to complete it. The complete mine seal structure also consists of a wall at the portal and the infilling of this last 30 metre section of the drift and this work is expected to take until early next year.

“I am advised that no new information has come to light in the course of this work that changes Solid Energy’s view that safe re-entry of the mine is not possible. Monitored methane levels in the drift beyond the new seal have been rapidly increasing and are approaching the levels in the remainder of the drift of 95 per cent, as expected. 

“I remain doubtful of claims that the mine can be safely re-entered. The mine is full of methane and is likely to have residual heat sources capable of triggering an explosion if there was a source of oxygen. There is the added risk of rock falls from unstable strata fractured by the 2010 explosions.

The fundamental flaw of the mine having only one egress route remains. The Government has already spent more than $5 million trying to find a safe re-entry method and we support the conclusion that it is not practically possible.

“I am looking forward on Wednesday to meeting with the families to discuss the mine decommissioning work and the memorial track proposed through the Paparoa National Park.”