Pike River mine re-entry suspended again

Pike River families spokesperson Sonya Rockhouse and New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern. Image: Pike River Recovery Agency

The long-awaited re-entry to the Pike River coal mine in New Zealand has been delayed after a commitment to return was made by the New Zealand Government in November 2018.

Multiple explosions hit the underground mine in 2010, leading to the loss of 29 lives. The cause of the explosion is yet to be discovered.

The latest delay was attributed to ‘unexpected and unexplained readings’ of Pike River’s atmospheric conditions, where high levels of oxygen were detected in one of the boreholes of the mine.

The Pike River Recovery Agency later confirmed it to be a result of a leaking sampling tube, making the uncontrollability of the mine’s atmospheric state dangerous for a re-entry.

“Safety has always been our first priority, and will continue to be. In these circumstances the appropriate precaution is to temporarily suspend operations,” Minister Responsible for Pike River re-entry Andrew Little said.

“We made a commitment to the Pike families. … we will do everything we can to honour that commitment safely.

“I back the Pike River Recovery Agency to take the time needed to fully understand the cause and significance of these new readings.”

The agency has continued its integrity testing of all tubes. Ventilation experts will also convene later in the month.