A miner died today after he was trapped when a tunnel collapsed in the Roa coal mine near Blackball on the West Coast.

Acting Senior Sergeant Craig Shannahan, of Greymouth police, said the 47-year-old man's body had been recovered late this afternoon.

"His family has been advised, the coroner will be informed and the deceased's details will be revealed no later than tomorrow," Mr Shannahan said.

The miner was trapped after a shaft in the mine, about 800m from the entrance, collapsed just after 11am. Nine other miners working at the site escaped unscathed.

A St John Ambulance spokeswoman said paramedics were flown to the mine at 11.57am, and stood down about 3.45pm.

The families of the shift workers had been advised.

At least 20 men work at the mine, which operates 24-hours a day.

The Solid Energy Rescue Helicopter left Greymouth for the site at 12.10pm, flying a rescue team in before returning for paramedics.

Only a few weeks ago there was a large exercise at the Roa mine involving rescuers from Roa and neighbouring coal mines.

Roa is the largest privately-owned coal mine on the West Coast and is New Zealand's only private coal exporter.

The Roa area has been mined since 1907, continuing through to 1947 when the New Zealand State Coal Mines took over the operations.

When the State mine ceased in 1971, more than 1.6 million tonnes of coal had been extracted from two major coal seams.

In 1980, interest in the Roa reserves was renewed, with just 6100 tonnes being extracted from a small open-cast to the west of the old underground workings.

In August 2001, the Roa Mining Company began carrying out an expansion programme. Roa Mining is 50 per cent owned by Francis Mining, which has operated on the West Coast since 1982.

FACTS AND FIGURES

* The Roa coal mine is a century-old mine which has been re-opened by a private company over the past decade, digging back into the old workings which tapped two major coal seams.

* Roa is the largest privately owned coal mine on the West Coast and is New Zealand's only private coal exporter.

* It is 30km northeast of Greymouth, in the Greymouth coalfield.

* The Paparoa Coal Company began mining what is today the Roa mining area in 1907, continuing through to 1947 when the State Coal Mines took over the operations.

* When mining ceased in 1971 over 1.6 million tonnes of coal had been extracted from the two major coal seams with significant development, both for access and in coal, remaining as "old workings".

* In 1980 interest in the Roa reserves was renewed, with just 6100 tonnes being extracted from a small opencast mine to the west of the old underground workings.

* In 1988 Francis Mining Company Ltd acquired ownership of the mining licenses and extended the opencast workings, extracting a further 250,000 tonnes until the surface workings exhausted the reserves in 1995.

* During this time the coal was exported as an "ash trimmer" to coke producers.

* In 1999 an access tunnel was cut towards the old workings, and completed in January 2000.

* In August 2001 the Roa Mining Company Ltd was formed as a joint venture company, owned by Francis Mining Company Ltd and Coaltrac AG. It began expanding its operations by opening new "drives" to the coal reserves.

* Construction of a primary wash plant and a workshop was completed in March 2004.

* Directors of the company say its coal offers possibilities for end-users looking for a reactive, low volatile, low sulphur, low ash, and high carbon content hard coking coal -- markets such as specialty and foundry coke producers, activated carbon and metallurgical coke producers.

* Processed coal is stockpiled at the Roa mine and then transported by road to the port of Greymouth, or to the rail loading facility at Stillwater, 20km from Greymouth. From Stillwater coal is transported 190km by train across the Southern Alps to Lyttelton.

- NZPA




- NZPA