An operation has begun to extinguish the fire coming from the vent shaft of the Pike River mine and cool the surrounding concrete pad.
At present temperatures around the shaft make it impossible to approach safely.
The operation, led by the New Zealand Fire Service and Rural Fire, involves pumping water up from a nearby creek to a holding tank above the vent. The water will then be pumped from the tank and directed on to the vent and pad.
"We must get access to the concrete pad to allow further assessments to be made on capping the vent" said Superintendent Gary Knowles.
"At present temperatures on the pad are reaching 150 degrees Celsius. The Fire Service advise us the maximum working temperature for staff to operate safely on the pad is 65 degrees Celsius."
"There is no access to the vent other than on foot or by helicopter, and neither option is open to us while the temperatures are so high."
"By capping the vent the efficiency of the GAG unit will be increased."
"A metal cap has been built but we can't safely get a helicopter above the vent to lower the cap down because of the flames and heat"
"The terrain is extremely challenging and all the equipment has to be airlifted into place"
"I can't put a timescale on how long it will take but the NZ Fire Service has already begun its work. We are working closely with them and Rural Fire to provide support in this phase of the operation "
"However I stress that even if we are able to reduce the heat at the vent this does not in itself mean the heat or fire inside the mine will be reduced"
Meanwhile the GAG unit continues to function well after it was restarted at lunchtime following the replacement of two high pressure water hoses.
Two pictures are attached showing current conditions at the vent and the intensity of the heat.
Police media liaison in Greymouth: 027 501 5742