A robot and remote, real-time gas sampling equipment are being readied to assist rescue efforts at the Pike River coal mine, Greymouth, New Zealand, where 29 men are unaccounted for following a recent explosion in the mine.
Pike River chief executive, Peter Whittall, says a New Zealand Army robot is on standby at the mine and if it can operate safely within the main access tunnel, it would be used first to check the area where an underground loader is thought to be blocking the access way. A longer control cable is being sought for the machine, which might allow it to proceed further along the 2.2 km tunnel towards the area of coal workings.
The gas sampling tubing from Queensland would allow the second gas survey point now being drilled to be connected to analysis equipment and speed up the turnaround of results.
The drill has currently cut more than 100 m of its 162 m target. A special drill bit would be used for the last 10 m to minimise the chance of any sparking when it breaks through into the mine drive below.
Depending on where the drill hole intersects the drive, laser and other imaging gear, which can be lowered down the hole, may provide more information about the situation deeper in the mine, according to Whittall.
Fibre-optic cable is being laid from the mine portal area to the top of the main ventilation shaft. It would allow the rescue planners to see any changes in the air coming out of the shaft. The Department of Conservation is assisting with track access to the new sample points.
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