It was almost eight years ago to the day, that 29 men went to work at Pike River Mine on the West Coast.
Just another day for them on the literal coal face, but as we know – the Pike River 29, never came home.
The government today announced there will be an attempt to re-enter the mine in search of some answers and in search of the remains possibly of some of those men, also in search of closure and as the families say – in search of justice.
Police Commissioner, Mike Bush, came out today and said – it is still an open investigation, he’s not ruling out that manslaughter charges could be laid for the deadly explosion. Everything of course relies on what evidence, if any, can be found down there.
Pike River Re-Entry minister, Andrew Little, says extensive advice has shown that re-entry using the existing tunnel would be the safest option.
Up to $38 million dollars will be allocated to this and the mission back in could proceed as early as February 2019.
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Chief Operating Officer of the Pike River Recovery Agency, Dinghy Patterson, joined Lynda Hallinan on RadioLIVE’s The Long Lunch about the logistics and plan around the re-entry.
“There’s a lot of preparation work that has been underway and still needs to be continued and we should have that prep work done by early February. And that is when we should be breaching the concrete wall thirty metres in to the mine. That’s when the actual re-entry in to the mine tunnel will start.”
“The key point is, safety. We don’t want to hurt anyone else again, and we can accomplish that.”
It’s a very technical operation ahead of the team, using a combination of fresh air, nitrogen, bore holes and ventilation to achieve the goal of re-entry. Despite the challenges, Mr Patterson has confidence.
“It’s a very technical operation, but we’ve had a lot of experts on ventilation working with us from the UK, Australia and New Zealand to come up with this plan, and we’re all confident that can be done.”
“Single-entry driveage is not new, it’s done all around the world and it’s just a matter of the safety controls you put in place to manage that.”
So what are the priorities when the team gets in?
“We’ve got a number of objectives, ranging from recovering the drift, to the roof fall, to enable a full forensic operation to be carried out and if there’s any remains, we’ll recover those. And anything of interest that may lead to what caused the explosion in the first place."
Listen to the full interview with Dinghy Patterson above.
The Long Lunch with Lynda Hallinan, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.