The Pike River Mine disaster was a coal mining accident that started on 19 November 2010 at the Pike River Mine, 46 kilometers (29 mi) northeast of Greymouth, in the southern part of the western coast of New Zealand. At approximately 3:44 pm (NZDT, UTC+13) there was a methane explosion in the mine. At the time of the explosion there were 31 miners and contractors in the mine. Two miners were able to walk from the mine; they were treated for moderate injuries and released from the hospital in Greymouth the next day. The remaining 16 miners and 13 contractors were thought to be at least 1.5 kilometers from the entrance to the mine.
After a second explosion at 2:37 pm on 24 November, the remaining 29 men were thought to have died by the police. Police Superintendent Gary Knowles, Relief Operation Officer (Operation Pike), said he believed that “nobody survived because of this explosion. “A third explosion occurred on 26 November 2010 at 3:39 pm, and a fourth explosion occurred just before 2 pm on 28 November. The new owner of the mine, Solid Energy, says that the bodies of the 29 miners who died there can never be recovered.
The initial explosion damaged the gas drainage line of the mine, causing methane gas to accumulate immediately in the mine. Since there could be a potential source of ignition, rescuers were too dangerous to enter the mine. Initially, it was predicted that it would take several days before the mine was safe enough for rescuers to enter, because the gas inside was feared to be explosive. Initial tests at the mine ventilation shaft were hindered by heavy clouds, which prevented helicopter access, and staff had to walk over rough terrain, as the shaft had no road access.
Control measures that could have been taken are as follows
- Important changes to the legislation on health and safety, administration and enforcement in New Zealand were required.
- In order to better manage risks and monitor compliance with health and safety within organisations, corporate governance practices should be improved.
- Mine managers should adopt best gas control practices .
- Workers should be involved in health and safety in order to provide additional safeguards.
- mandate statutory positions required to ensure safe and healthy mining (including statutory mine manager and ventilation officer) and identify their key functions and relevant qualifications, skills and training.