Re-entry to Doomed Mine overwhelmed by politics
Nov 24, 2017 - The politicisation of the reopening of the Pike River Coal Mine, which materialised as the dominant moral cause of the recent New Zealand general election continues in spite of the understanding that the mine is more dangerous now than it was when 29 miners were killed there in rapid-sequence explosions in 2010.
The entire site remains permeated in methane gas which according to Japanese prospectors in 1993 was “bubbling” out of the ground – an element disclosed in official proceedings following the disaster.
The National government allowed the moral nature of the re-entry to the now abandoned mine which remains tomb to the 29 brave miners to overwhelm it, prevaricating over the degree to which the mine had been sealed by its post-disaster operator Solid Energy, a state coal undertaking.
Supporters of the re-entry to the mine say that the re-entry was and is feasible “technically.”
Which it is.
Obscured in this wildly populist debate at one and the same time macabre and moral, was and is the presence of the methane gas which caused the fatal detonations.
The methane gas is a product of decaying vegetation which is what coal is.
Just because the mine has been sealed off, even if partially so, there will be more methane gas inside it than when it was working.
This is because there has been no ventilation to shift the methane gas.
Humans cannot detect it.
Which is why canaries, which can, were once required in mines.
Methane is much more buoyant than air.
This is a constantly neglected piece of information in regard to the Pike River Mine which is above sea level and features horizontal workings which are more likely to trap the lighter-than-air gas than vertical shafts.
There is also the effect of the earthquakes that have shaken the region since the mine was abandoned.
There is now the extent to which the earthquakes will have ruptured the workings from a cave-in point of view.
There is the extent to which such disruptions will have exposed fresh pockets of methane gas.
The volatility of methane occurs when it comes into contact with air, the air we breathe.
Methane gas is also self-combustible which means that like automotive fuel it detonates under pressure.
In spite of this the Pike River re-entry issue in the last election took on the aspect of a moral crusade centred on ethical interpretations.
At least one now ruling coalition leader portrayed themselves in an heroic light as standing by to lead personally and from the front the re-entry into the highly volatile mine workings .
The former National Government and notably its leader Bill English found itself utterly tongue tied over the issue and progressively caught up in the emotional tsunami of the tragedy instead of the now greatly-enhanced dangers of the re-entry.
Governments have scientific advisers and cohorts of technical-specialist spokespeople who exist to deal with this kind of situation, and doing so by laying out coherently the technical and scientific reasons behind exactly such issues as the Pike River Mine re-entry one.
| From the MSCNewsWire reporters' desk || Friday 24 November 2017 |||