Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Where nature may win

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  • Matthew Poole,

    I confess to no knowledge of how long it should take to drill through 250m of solid rock, but I can only imagine the location is a problem.

    I have no idea either, but what Whittall said in this evening's presser suggests the rig does about 5 metres an hour at top speed, IIRC.
    And when you move something around in parts by helicopter location is definitely a problem.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4091 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    Matthew,
    For once, I don't see the need to respond. Anyone who's read this page can see which of us needs to get a grip.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It just shouldn't have been on TV.

    Indeed not -- the gentleman concerned obviously has a lot of issues with his former wife/partner, but they should have been left in the Family Court or a counsellor's office where they belong. Keep it classy, Three.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12363 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to vangam,

    I cant believe that the only option for the rescue services is to ‘wait’. Dont mining authorities have plans in place precisely for these sort of events? Surely the build-up of toxic gases is not an unexpected eventuality?

    It's not toxic gases they're worried about. Those are easily dealt with, simply by donning breathing apparatus. Peter Whittall said as much to the collected media this evening. The problem is methane, which sampling is reporting as present in concentrations that are highly explosive. Metal tapping metal, a kicked stone, a torch that's not truly intrinsically-safe, all potential sources of a spark that could cause a lethal explosion. That's the risk that is keeping the rescue teams out, and is the risk that's very, very, very hard to mitigate. The possibilities for causing a spark are endless, the possible consequences dire indeed.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4091 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    I suppose it should be noted, for anyone who missed the first segment of Campbell, that one of the miners' families is now asking for Knowles to be replaced.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    I suppose it should be noted, for anyone who missed the first segment of Campbell, that one of the miners’ families is now asking for Knowles to be replaced.

    On Campbell? Never too early for a witch hunt. Thanks TV3

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    Never too early for a witch hunt.

    Why not just watch it before you comment?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to 3410,

    Why? Serious question -- because I'd rather pour battery acid in my eyes that watch Three at the moment.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12363 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    I found this detailed map of the mine layout useful. Still avoiding most of the more-heat-than-light coverage..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19428 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Hills,

    I’m amazed at the strength of critical opinions here from certain people who freely admit to knowing little of the situation. I’ve been to the mine itself, went to school with some of those trapped and have a good friend who was working outside the mine when the explosion happened and I still don’t feel qualified to offer any personal insights or second-guess the experts.

    Crescent City • Since Nov 2006 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to Michael Hills,

    Michael, FWIW I think everyone here, regardless of the few cross words, shares the same hope your friends are well and rescued. That mightn't help directly, and perhaps the inability to do something more meaningful is part of the fractiousness, but it's sincere. Arohanui.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    And in other news, North Korea is shelling South Korea.

    Wouldn't it be ironic if NZ gets wiped out in a nuclear war, excepting the miners who miraculously survive and emerge blinking to the surface, only to find nobody else left alive.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5543 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Hills, in reply to Paul Williams,

    Thanks Paul but I can't really claim to be directly affected, at least no more than anyone else from Greymouth. I was just surprised by the intensity of some of the speculation.

    Crescent City • Since Nov 2006 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    Why not just watch it before you comment?

    because I place more faith in a team of people who train for this sort of thing, who are actually there making difficult decisions and facing the trauma of possible consequences rather than the perpetually self-important likes of Campbell who faces no consequences for being a complete arsehole.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz, in reply to Michael Hills,

    At least here there are voices of reason that can and do show the speculation to be just that. At Granny's house, on the other hand,.....

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz, in reply to Neil Morrison,

    self-important likes of Campbell who faces no consequences for being a compete arsehole

    Not quite true. He probably gets some kind of performance bonus for just that.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    And in other news, North Korea is shelling South Korea.

    And over 300 people died in a stampede in Cambodia. Now THAT is a crowd out of control, this business of saying what you ignorantly reckon on the internet has nothing on it. A curious parallel to something a formerly depressed friend said to me today, that the dangers of mining sure put his boring desk job in perspective.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10504 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    Having another look at the video, the piece of cloth indicates at first a steady flow into the mine, then no flow then a brief inflow followed by the explosive outflow followed by a steady inflow.

    I can come up with one possible scenario explaining that. I’m a little puzzled that Peter Whittall thought that piece of cloth was incidental, maybe so much else on his mind.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    Why not just watch it before you comment?

    because I place more faith in a team of people who train for this sort of thing, who are actually there making difficult decisions and facing the trauma of possible consequences rather than the perpetually self-important likes of Campbell who faces no consequences for being a complete arsehole.

    To be specific, why comment about something that you didn't even see?*

    *rhetorical!

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison, in reply to 3410,

    you might think paying attention to someone like Campbell is a prerequiste to having an opinion on this, I tend to think that the people worth listening to are those who spend a large part of their life, often risking their life, invloved in these rescue missions.

    The spokesperson for the mines rescue team says it's too unsafe to go into the mine. He probably doesn't get paid as much as Campbell.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    I've lived on the West Coast for over 40 years.My great-grandmother came from here. I find most of the media interpretations about Coasters, and Coasters' reactions, risible- and sad.
    We aint stereotypes, mates - much as you wish we were.
    Paticularly when a tragedy happens...

    There's already been the Fox Glacier sky-diving disaster. That is 9 dead people.
    Dead people cant be replaced.

    And there are more extractive ventures on this side of the motu about to do a dive.
    Jobs are not the be all and end all when people may/will die trying to earn a living-

    it has happened here for yonks(as elsewhere i te motu katoa): you go to sea, you go to the mines, you go to work on farms where all safety regulations may not be enforced...

    In the meantime, before the inevitable is announced, I am increasingly disgusted by our mmedia: WHY? the vile concentration on perceived(not real) emotions?

    Sicko.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • James George,

    I'm going to repeat what I posted last night and got sledged for. Because I said I was no engineer, the hysterical 'back the status quo to keep me mortgage paid', cowards who hopped in did so on the basis I wasn't an engineer.

    Practically every rebuttal of ordinary caring human beings' criticism of the way the mine has been run along with the appallingly incompetent way the police have attempted to control the situation, treating it as though the mine and the miners are a mob of recalcitrant drunks, has lacked any substance other than "what would you know about it anyway?"

    Nabobs of negativity attacking honest queries. I know enough to read the attitude of complacent disregard 'cause my back's covered' that seeps outta every pore of the stand-up spruikers for mining who have been wheeled out 24/7 since this began.

    Brown alluded to three disasters (west virginia, Russia, and Pike River) that have had methane explosions in 2010 as some sort of proof that such explosions are inevitable & random -totally outside our control.

    That is sheer rubbish. The investigation at the West Virginia mine to which I linked a media report of last night, found categorically that the explosion only occurred because of lax and disregarded safety procedures. The russion one will be the same although we will never hear of it.

    Literally thousands of coal mines around the world extract coal without incident because they observe correct procedures. There is nothing random in any of this.

    My concern about the situation here is multi-faceted. But let me go back to tors and repeat the statement I made before which so many seemed to choke on.

    "If coal cannot be extracted without a risk that there could be a major methane incident which will kill around thirty humans, then it should not be mined in NZ."

    That is not an unreasonable statement. The coal will still be there - it isn't going anywhere and will always be in demand, so what is the hurry to get it out now.

    If it can't be done in reasonably guaranteed safety, leave it until in can be. Surely in a modern social democatic society it is untenable to employ people to do a job if there is a strong possibility many will be killed doing it?

    Not even 21st century racing drivers risk themselves to the extent which so many seem to blithely accept miners should risk their lives. Miners get paid a bit more than many other manual workers but not a lot more than other machine operators, most of whom don't have the unpleasant working environment that miners must endure. They are well paid because they are highly skilled and work hard in a human unfriendly environment. They do not get paid to risk their lives, yet it seems that many in the industry (bosses & engineers) appear to behave as if they do.

    The fault for this accident rests with the mining company and its executives, no matter what the immediate cause turns out to have been. As I said above there is no way that conditions favourable to a large methane, followed by coal dust, explosion should have been allowed to develop. How many back up power systems for the ventilators were there? I hear none. How many back up ventilation systems were there? Once again the scuttlebutt round town here is there was no real back up. Yet being NZ, the land of the fitted up commission of inquiry, none of this will ever arise, or rather if it does we will be told that this mine, a brand spanking new mine, compared OK with other mines about the world. Even if that were true it would only be because many of the other mines are 50 to 100 years old, & behind the former iron curtain or in China.
    It needs to be compared with other coal mines built in the so-called developed world this century. If that were to happen, and be done honestly this mine will be found wanting. Guaranteed but this is NZ where successive power elites have bought in a myriad of 'overseas experts' to spout a script in return for a cheque, whenever it was required.
    (My personal favourite was the english 'arms expert' bought in to the Thomas Royal Commisions who swore black and blue that the bullet casing found in the garden could have been made before the shootings. No one believed him but it didn't matter he had effectively sabotaged any chance of charging Bruce Hutton or his offsider, and provided cover, if threadbare, for senior police when asked about evidence 'planting'.)

    This whole mess reminds of those Muldoon days, everything about it reeks of a corrupt alliance between police, the pols and business just like the 'old days'.

    It is possible to design, build, and manage a mine so that the risks of a major explosion are non-existent. And still make money from it. The set up costs may be a bit higher but it is achievable. That is what independent industry experts have been saying today and that was my original contention.

    But the rescue that isn't a rescue, is really the worst of this awful 'blast from the past'.

    Nothing about the explosion & the mine, has changed since Friday night. The video of the explosion coming out the entrance was available then so that video should change nothing now. Yet Broad is pulling it out from under his jacket like it was "Brucie does Pike River" foisting it on passers-by & saying it 'proves the police"'played the hand they were dealt" Yeah right Howard.

    The inane way the police have managed this shows exactly why police should stick to law enforcement and leave rescuing to rescuers.

    The most visible police attitude has been their usual over the top 'media management' where journos are kept in their place by the threat that any lip will result in the loss of a major 'news source'.
    Consequently the police hang onto real informationa i as if it were gold dust. Govt and the police were obviously concerned about 'another Chile' so they kept everyone including families away from the pit head & only begrudgingly bussed them in and out on the Sunday as if the victims families were an impedioment tey just couldn't ignore. Not partners in the rescue, no even stakeholders in the rescue, just a pain in the ass that needed to be humoured. The families felt that and won't wear it.

    To make matters worse the media fell into line and began spouting the "west coast man' (and woman) BS that has been used to control Coasters for more than a century.

    People on the coast are just as human as anywhere else but it has always suited those who want to exploit coasters to play into the 'west coast myth'. Keeping the pubs open late wasn't about freedom it was about sucking in some of the mugs (Cause we have mugs just like anywhere else) to tolerate dangerous work and insufficient pay and in return they were allowed to give more of that pay back to the Kellihers and the Coutts's.

    But drag out the "west Coast myth" and the whole nation including those mugs on the coast expect everyone close to those humans who are prolly injured, & stuck 2 clicks up a pitch dark stinking hot tunnel for days, to be stoic in the face of an awful horror.

    By playing the "west Coast myth' it means people expect the miners to put up with working conditions no other kiwi worker would consider.

    They are 'men' so they can handle being left there and all the rest of the garbage people spout and dream to avoid an ugly reality.

    The police managed to create a 'lose' 'lose' situation for themselves with their taciturn controlling take on saving life.

    The longer they leave beginning the rescue, the more they have to lose by going in and saving someone. "How many others would have still been alive if they went in sooner" will be what everyone wants to know.

    If everyone is dead (the best outcome for those police who are 'political' )it means there is a good chance of spinning that everyone died in the explosion, but that means total control of information which is looking harder to hang on to.

    The cause another explosion excuse is difficult because Key & Co won't wear the mine being shut forever, yet in all likelihood the longer rescuers wait the higher the levels of methane and CO in the mine will go. They are going to have to go in sometime, but the rescuers who are prepared to risk their lives to try and save others are unlikely to be so keen to risk death to 'save' bodies.
    So they could wait a month still have an explosion and that would be really difficult to 'media manage'. eg it could leak out that some had lived for a few days, that the air initially wasn't that bad.
    Which brings me to the other point so many armchair do-nothings apparently found so risible in what I posted last night.

    When I said that even I could come up with a concept for a rescue vehicle which could move in a high methane atmosphere without raising the risk of explosion.

    It wouldn't look anything like the toy robot the army drag out when the coppers need a PR diversion though.
    It would be large made of plastic with a spark proof housing around the engine and drive train and have been built robustly enough to withstand a hit with a fire hose let alone a few splashes of underground H2O.

    The technology to build such a vehicle exists right now. The issues are nowhere near as complex as flying drones into afghani weddings, controlled from the Creech Airforce Base utility building basement opposite that base's Taco Bell.

    We are talking basic 21st century engineering that the company should have stumped up for long before they began excavation.

    Yet it hasn't happened and that was major oversight by those charged with keeping NZ miners safe.

    If the mine had been properly managed it wouldn't be neccessary to have a rescue system, but given NZ's track record on industrial accidents since the deregulated or sorry 'industry self regulated environment' we have had foisted upon us, it is crininal that no such peice of equipment was available for use.

    That is what the jacks could do here at this rescue to earn their keep.. Arrest themselves. You can be sure many man hours of police and mine bosses time were wasted before this horror in BS 're-enactments' of a real mine accident.

    They woulda had the office staff playing annoying media workers being rude at the interminable press conferences, and off duty miners playing the wounded, yet none of these rescue experts saw fit to ask the obvious. "When the mine has had a major explosion how do we get the workers out?"

    Since Sep 2007 • 95 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Is James George entirely sane?

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    When I said that even I could come up with a concept for a rescue vehicle which could move in a high methane atmosphere without raising the risk of explosion

    James, there's no chance you're a physicist, is there?

    If it can’t be done in reasonably guaranteed safety, leave it until in can be. Surely in a modern social democatic society it is untenable to employ people to do a job if there is a strong possibility many will be killed doing it?

    The problem with your uninformed blathering about how an entire industry should be run is that risk is always, always relative. What's "reasonably guaranteed"? What if it was, by your standards, reasonably guaranteed? You don't know what the risks were. One incident, the cause of which has not yet been established, is not evidence in itself that the entire industry is impossibly risky and should be shut down. You talk about a "strong possibility" without any evidence that this was a strong possibility. It could have been a one-in-a-million accident. We. Don't. Know.

    Oh, but, I'm sorry: you are the only defender of the truth against rigged commisions of inquiry. Do carry on with your fine demonstration of blame-laying.

    (Don't.)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    And when you move something around in parts by helicopter location is definitely a problem.

    I doubt if they are moving the drill rig around by helicopter. They probably have old roads from the exploration phase of this mine which they use. And the tops of ridge lines are usually where it is easiest to put roads in.
    Im just surprised they have a drill rig around at all. Cause usually they do the exploration and by the time the mine is in production, drill rigs are onto the next exploration site.

    We are talking basic 21st century engineering that the company should have stumped up for long before they began excavation.

    Looking at the site I bet the company is pissed it had to go underground. They would have been cursing every conservationist and their children. You can guess what option they prefer. Just sayin' as they say.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1659 posts Report Reply

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