Pike River in unchartered territory of recovery

Loader recovery. Video screenshot courtesy of Pike River Recovery Agency.

Pike River Recovery Minister Andrew Little has reiterated that it is unlikely that human remains will be recovered from the Pike River mine in New Zealand.

As of last week, the Pike River Recovery Agency has recovered nearly 1600 metres of the 2300-metre drift. Little said this meant the underground team was now moving into an area of the Pike River mine that had not been seen since the explosion.

“As we’ve said from the start, it is unlikely that human remains will be recovered,” he said.

“But we will complete the recovery of the drift as we set out to do, in order to offer the families closure, to promote accountability for this tragedy and to help prevent future mining tragedies.”

The recovery agency also found a loader driven by a survivor of the 2010 coal mine explosion. The loader was recovered from 1581 metres up the 2.3 kilometres drift access tunnel.

The New Zealand police investigation team led the forensic examination on the vehicle and operational zone, before it was hooked up using another loader and towed down the drift to the surface for further examination.

“The fifth and last robot was recovered before the loader, and now there’s several hundred metres of previously unexplored drift and roadways in the Pit Bottom in Stone area that have not been seen since 2010,” Little said.

“We’ve reached a significant point in the recovery, which is about trying to find out why the 29 men who went to work on November 19 2010 didn’t come home.”

Around 600 metres of the drift still needed to be explored and examined, and Pike River Recovery Agency Dinghy Pattinson said this was the next big area of interest for the team.

“We’re hopeful that we might reach Pit Bottom in stone by the end of August, however there are a lot of unknowns between then and now,” he said.