Home' Greymouth Star : February 23rd 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Thursday, February 23, 2017
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uLetters to the editor
1836 - Siege of the Alamo begins in US state
of Texas against Mexican attackers.
1905 - The Rotary Club is founded by lawyer
Paul Percy Harris in Chicago.
1911 - New Zealander Joseph
Hammond carries the first aircraft
passenger in Australia: Mrs
1931 - Death of Australian opera
singer Dame Nellie Melba.
1942 - In World War Two, a
Master Mutual Aid Agreement
is signed between the US, Britain,
Australia and New Zealand.
1945 - US Marines on Iwo Jima capture
Mount Suribachi, and raise the American flag.
1954 - First mass inoculation of children
against polio with the Salk vaccine begins.
1965 - Death of Stan Laurel, British-born
“skinny ” half of the Laurel and Hardy duo.
2000 - An Australian-led multi-national force
formally leaves East Timor and hands over to
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Samuel Pepys, English diarist (1633-
1703); George Frederick Handel, German
composer (1685-1759); Sir George Frederick
Watts, English artist (1817-1904); William
McMahon, Australia’s 20th prime
minister (1908-1988); Peter Fonda,
US actor (1939-); Johnny Winter,
US singer-musician (1944-2014);
Brad Whitford, guitarist for
Aerosmith (1952-); Howard Jones,
British singer (1955-); Helena
Sukova, Czech tennis player
(1965-); Kelly Macdonald, Scottish actor
(1976-); Emily Blunt, British actress (1983-);
Dakota Fanning, American actor (1994-) .
“ Love is the chain whereby to bind a child to
his parents.” — Abraham Lincoln (1809-65).
“ Love one another warmly as Christians, and
be eager to show respect for one another.”
— (Romans 12:10).
The La Fontaine
River, near Hari Hari,
was the best trout
fishing river in the
world, said the noted New Zealand fisherman
Mr Con Voss of Rotorua before leaving here
this morning. Yesterday Mr Voss fished the La
Fontaine where he caught a five-pounder and
a three-and-a -half-pounder, both in excellent
Mr Voss was here during the course of a
South Island instruction tour, sponsored by the
Rothmans Foundation, in which he is speaking
to anglers and giving demonstrations in fishing
techniques. Before leaving this morning he
spoke enthusiastically on the potential of the
West Coast for a fisherman’s holiday. “ The
water here is really beautiful,” he said.
The Hokitika Televiewers’ Society’s translator
arrived in Westport on this afternoon’s NAC
flight, and arrangements have been made to
bring the unit from Westport to Hokitika by
road. The translator was due back in Hokitika
yesterday from Rotorua, and rumours were that
it had been “ lost in transit”.
“ Failing mechanical breakdowns, we expect to
be on air at 5pm today,” secretary of the society
Mr W A Reynolds told the Star this afternoon.
“ Viewers must appreciate that we are trying
to keep the delay to a minimum, but the air
freight ser vices are beyond our control,” he said.
The past few nights without television
have left quite a few people with time on
their hands. But the compelling interest in
Wednesday night serials was too much for
They paid visits to relatives and friends in the
Grey Valley where the signal from Otira was
uFood for thought
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he responsibilities that come
with being an expat West
Coaster are usually only
seasonal, when associates are
looking for a taste of fresh West
That has changed over recent months with
the questioning topically centred on whether
entry into the Pike River Mine is likely or even
It is a subject that has become highly charged
on both sides of the argument, especially
at political levels and across the country,
with everyone seemingly having a view on a
complex tragedy that has so many sad threads.
Six years on from 19 November 2010 and
global mining tragedies tell us emphatically
that the ongoing passage of time after an
underground mining disaster, markedly
increases the complexity of victim recovery
which in turn, decreases the probability of
Every New Zealander wishes to see all
victims of Pike returned to their families for a
respectful burial. An abandoned underground
mine is not morally acceptable as an eternal
resting place for these 29 men.
It remains a sad fact that mining all over
the world, in Australia, Europe, South Africa,
the USA and China have underground
mines as eternal tombs for victims of mine
disasters. Strongman Number One mine near
Greymouth is a tomb for two victims of the
1967 disaster that killed 19.
Some of the Pike victims’ families
commissioned an experts’ report to support
their case for re-entry and have lobbied hard to
get this report accepted.
Prepared by United Kingdom coalmining
experts, Dr David Creedy and Robert
Stevenson, the report ‘A method for safe re-
entry of Pike River Mine Drift’, has been used
to make the case for re-entry into the 2.3km
stone access drive at the mine, known as the
The five-page UK report contrasts with the
extensive bevy of reports commissioned by
Pike’s owner Solid Energy, using New Zealand
underground mining experts, and published in
their hundreds of pages on their website.
Solid Energy’s work using extensive local
knowledge, is perceived to be too conservative
compared to the UK opinion. History repeats
in a sense as on the day after the first explosion
at Pike, on November 20, 2010, seven of the 13
New Zealand certificated underground mine
managers were there ready to assist only to be
sidelined by the government agencies.
Both sides partially agree, based on footage
obtained by robots and borehole cameras, that
structurally, the drift could be entered as it is
likely to be in good condition for the first 2km,
given the installed level of structural supports
and roof bolts. Even after four explosions, it is
likely to be intact.
From footage obtained from cameras inserted
down boreholes near the in-bye end of the
drift, damaged infrastructure from pipes and
conveyor belts obstructing the roadway is seen
up to 1m deep in places.
Compounding this is the methane rich,
potentially explosive atmosphere in the drift
that is the core problem for re-entry.
The Pike Royal Commission identified the
last working locations of the Pike 29 as beyond
the drift, in the actual workings of the mine.
There is a belief that a group of miners were
exiting the mine at the time of the first blast in
an underground transporter, a Driftrunner, and
maybe caught in the large rockfall at Spaghetti
Junction, the point where the drift meets the
One of the two survivors from Pike’s first
explosion, Daniel Rockhouse, was within 500m
of Spaghetti Junction and it is this stretch
of the drift where the speculation is focused.
There is no advocacy from the families to go
beyond this point and enter the actual mine
In addition to the gas ignition risk that would
be caused by activity at the top end of the drift,
a similar danger is the geological structure
where the coal seam intersects with the stone
The Hawera fault lies near where the seam
starts adjacent to a known fall at Spaghetti
Junction. Given the increase in earthquakes
across the South Island in recent times, there is
significant stress on the adjoining strata.
The mine has been on fire at various stages
and any form of re-ignition arising from
re-entry activity into the drift, can not be
dismissed. The UK experts say the workings
have been gas-filled, therefore oxygen free
for four years, which removes spontaneous
combustion concerns, a view not shared by
In any analysis of the risk of re-entry at Pike,
history reminds us of the many rescue workers
killed attempting recovery of coalmine disaster
In a Pike-sized mine at Crandall Canyon
in Utah in 2007, six miners were killed in the
mine and 10 days later, three rescue workers
were killed attempting recovery. The six miners
Like Pike, the Crandall Canyon inquiry
found the mine was destined to fail because
the company made critical miscalculations, and
again like Pike, the US Department of Labour
was faulted for lax oversight of the mine and
mismanaging the failed rescue attempt.
The use of drones at Pike to survey the
drift has emerged as a new option. A mining
conference paper in Germany a few years ago
highlighted the challenges of such an option
underground, rather than seeing them as
A drone in the drift at Pike would need
light and a ventilated atmosphere in order to
transmit useful images, as well as repeaters
along the length of the drift.
The latest drones have sensors to avoid
objects in the open and they are largely
untested on receiving wifi signals through solid
rock, up to 2.3km in this case. They simply
can not fly in a lighter-than-air, methane
The re-entry of the drift at Pike is
recognised in mining circles globally, as not
straightforward. The UK experts’ report is full
of unproven, hopeful assumptions.
Greymouth-born Gerard Morris is a
former coal-mining journalist. He has
co-authored two books on West Coast
A Driftrunner underground at the coalface.
Pike re-entry examined
A schematic over view of the Pike River Mine.
A coal cutting machine in action at Pike River Mine.
The conveyor belt used to deliver materials to the coalface running along the wall of the stone drift leading into the
mine workings, August 2010.
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