Another specialist calls for Pike River drift to be re-entered as mine protest enters the 15th day

By Laura Mills

Pike River protesters want the current mine owner, Solid Energy, to halt the permanent sealing of the mine to allow a final check for bodies and evidence on the 19 November 2010 disaster. Photo / File
Pike River protesters want the current mine owner, Solid Energy, to halt the permanent sealing of the mine to allow a final check for bodies and evidence on the 19 November 2010 disaster. Photo / File

The Pike River Mine protest entered its 15th day today, with a second leading mine specialist backing a drift re-entry.

About 15 people picketed the mine access road this morning, joined by a group of visiting North Island bikers.

Picketer Karl Barkley is considering moving his protest tomorrow to outside the contractor Fulton Hogan's yard in Greymouth.

The protesters want the current mine owner, Solid Energy, to halt the permanent sealing of the mine to allow a final check inside the drift - the tunnel leading into the mine - for the possibility of bodies and evidence of what caused the explosions that killed 29 men.

Meanwhile, Solid Energy's new chief executive Tony King has asked to meet with the families.

"We have agreed, but as usual we've had no response for when it's going to take place," families spokesman Bernie Monk said.

Mr Monk today released a recent e-mail from British mining engineer Bob Stevenson, who several years ago with David Creedy and Dave Feickert provided independent advice on a plan to re-enter the mine.

Mr Stevenson supports re-entry the drift. Mr Creedy also came out in support last week, saying Solid Energy's decision was "irrational" and that going into a high-methane environment was "standard".

Mr Stevenson said in his recent e-mail he had been told the drift had been de-gassed recently.

"If this was the case why were we not informed and allowed to inspect it. They have done what we said could be done and what they said could not be done."

He said Solid Energy had agreed to the remote stopping, "a method they would not even listen to in our early dealings with them".

He suggested using boreholes as returns, using the 170m seal in the drift as a 'balance chamber' and installing auxiliary ventilation through that stopping to maintain a positive pressure in the drift.

"Inspect the drift in stages with rescue back-up and finally bring a conclusion of some sort to the families. The Government have stated they will agree entry if a safe method of work is provided. We say we can," Mr Stevenson said.

He did not believe the drift was as dangerous as Solid Energy made out.

"I do not think that the spontaneous combustion problem is anywhere near the problem (Solid Energy) make it. I don't think that the fall at the base of the drift is as insurmountable as (Solid Energy) make out, but of course this is pure conjecture on my behalf.

"What I do know is that recovery of the drift from a ventilation point of view is a straightforward mining technology exercise which has been carried out many times in mining worldwide."

- Greymouth Star

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