Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn is pleading that Greymouth not be left to die in the wake of the Pike River disaster. [..] Kokshoorn said with up to $10 billion worth of coal in the area, people were desperate for mining to continue. “The families want to see that mine go ahead. They know their loved ones left down there would want that.” November’s blast claimed the lives of 29 men and Kokshoorn is calling for open-cast mining amid fears the town will be the next casualty if environmental concerns are put before jobs.
[..] Kokshoorn said open-cast mining was safer and the financial benefits outweighed environmental concerns. “I believe that mine will operate into the future… it will be open-cast or tunnel mining. Open-cast is safer. “You can get 95% recovery, whereas if you tunnel, you only get 60% of the coal out because you have to leave pillars behind to hold the mountain up.” The estimated $6b seam could generate $10b extracted that way.
[..] He believed Pike River should have been open-cast all along, but “restrictive DoC conditions” and the price of coal at the time the mine started – which has since risen from about $50 a tonne to more than $200 – meant it was prohibitive.
In view of the 29 deaths, I wonder if the DOC and Pike River Mining would still consider the cost of open cut mining “prohibitive”.
As far as I have been able to see, Pike River have never asserted any wish to mine open cut. One has to assume that restrictions placed on this method by DOC were factors that made open cut mining less viable, and that when added into the whole economic equation, the option would not even have been on the table.
That may explain why PKM never approached DOC with such a proposal. PKM have also stated in power point presentations that the chance of outbursts (sudden inrushes of gas and other debris) was negligible. They therefore probably considered that the risks of tunnel mining were considerably reduced. Except that’s not how it played out and 29 miners are dead. Somewhere, someone made some bad decisions.
Mr. Kokshoorn also has some interesting comments upon the Police fronting the emergency operations at the mine.
Kokshoorn said the issue of being unable to quickly recover the miners’ bodies had to be raised, as did the decisions of the police heading the initial search and rescue. “They need to ask if police or search and rescue should run things.” He said that was not a criticism of the police, but “I just think people should stick to their knitting”.
I must admit I found it perplexing myself seeing officers who are most often seen making irritating government sponsored pronouncements on road safety suddenly at the forefront of a major and highly technical rescue operation. Are the Police, no doubt highly qualified in the use of digital speed detection equipment, qualified to play such a mine rescue management role? Still many questions to be answered of course. Gerry Brownlee is where the buck stops. I’d be surprised if he can whether the political storm.