25 Nov 2010

Decision not to attempt rescue believed the right one

3:12 pm on 25 November 2010

An Australian mining expert has backed the decision of police not to initiate a rescue attempt at the Pike River Coal mine, in the wake of Wednesday's explosion.

Rescue personnel had drilled bore holes into the mine and were using them to analyse air samples, which had so far been too toxic to allow them to enter.

Police said conditions at the Pike River Coal mine appeared to be improving in the early afternoon, until tests showed activity within the mine. Within half an hour, a massive explosion occurred, with plumes indicating the second blow might have been bigger than Friday's explosion.

Gavin Mudd of Monash University in Melbourne says people will always disagree about whether rescuers should have been sent into the mine more quickly.

He says authorities will try to work out a way to ventilate the mine so any methane coming from the coal is diluted to a level that's not flammable. But he says it may not be possible to retrieve the miners' bodies.

Police Minister Judith Collins says police were right to delay any entry of rescue workers. By taking the advice of mining experts, police prevented more deaths from happening during the second explosion.

Pike River Coal chiefe executive Peter Whittall says the explosion shows that the delay in sending in a rescue team was justified.