Yesterday on Radio Live, Matthew Hooton raised some interesting points about the Pike River mining disaster and lays the blame for the disaster squarely at the feet of Helen Clark and her cabinet. (Thursday 25/11 listen after 3:15pm)
To my knowledge the design of this mine was entirely predicated by the interference of green politics. The Helen Clark led Labour cabinet approved the Pike River mine but with some design contraints that probably have led directly to the deaths of 29 miners.
Due to the location, the conditions of the access arrangement required special consideration for the environment, such as a need to minimise tree felling and a requirement to reinstate all above-ground areas after mining ceases. Opponents of the mine strongly criticised the approval of the access agreement, noting that the coal is not intended for domestic use but simply a commercial operation, and thus should not have been allowed to go forward in a sensitive location. Forest & Bird also criticised the fact that the Minister of Conservation chose to ignore the report from the Department of Conservation stating that the mine would be damaging to the local environment. Greenpeace Aotearoa New Zealand also criticised the project for furthering the use of fossil fuels instead of developing sustainable alternatives.
Those protestations by the green movement and together with the constraints placed upon the operation by the Department of Conservation and its minister (Chris Carter) at the time, meant that Pike River mine was built in a highly unique way, with a method that well may be proven to have led to the build up of gases to such a critical level.
By insisting that the mine entrance be placed outside Paparoa National Park and also, information suggests, veto-ing the boring of a second ventilation shaft because of a blue duck living in the area meant that undue risks were placed on the miners. They had to tunnel from below the actual seam of coal and through more than 2kms under the National Park in order to gain access to the resource. Normally mines are built atop the mineral to be extracted, if normal mining operations are being undertaking, thus boring down onto the resource, but also allowing lighter than air gases such as methane to escape. By having to mine from below the resource and by failing to allow a second ventilation shaft because of a stupid duck, they may have killed those miners.
This is the only mine in the world that has its entrance BELOW the resource and mines up and towards the resources. Methane, a lighter than air gas had nowhere to go. The mine operation is described in Wikipedia, clearly showing the contraints placed upon operation.
The coal is mined 200m underground, at 800m above sea level, quarrying coal from the Brunner coal seam. The coal is taken from the mine via a ‘drift’, a gently-sloping 5 degree tunnel 2.3 km long. This tunnel has taken large amounts of dynamite to create, as the rock is described as being up to four times harder than concrete. Since the coal face will be located higher than the tunnel entrance, removal of material to a processing plant 10.6 km away will be via a slurry pipeline (with a 35% solids share).
Another major feature of the underground works is a 110m-deep ventilation shaft. After local ground conditions were found to be worse than expected, it was excavated with a raise-bore system excavating the 4.25m ventilation shaft from a 0.35m pilot drill shaft. Access to the top of the ventilation shaft is by helicopter only, even during construction, as conservation restrictions do not allow roads to be built to reach this point.
Make no mistake, conservation restrictions placed upon the company by green politics and the enviro-fascism of Helen Clark have led directly to the deaths of these 29 miners.
If normal mining methods had been allowed or even open cast mining then 29 miners may well be alive today. Helen Clark, Chris Carter, Greenpeace, Forest and Bird and the Department of Conservation may well have blood on their hads by making politically expedient decisions that protected trees and ducks over hard-working miners.