From Associated Press:
New Zealand mine explosion leaves 30 missing
• Blast at Pike River coal mine near Atarau on the South Island
• Up to 35 workers underground at time of explosion
Friday 19 November 2010 07.35 GMT
An explosion ripped through a coal mine in New Zealand today leaving around 30 workers unaccounted for, police and media reports said.
Emergency services were at the Pike River coal processing plant near the town of Atarau on the west coast of the South Island after reports of an explosion, police said in a statement.
Local mayor Tony Kokshoorn told New Zealand national radio that around 30 people at the mine were unaccounted for.
“It’s not good news at all,” Kokshoorn said. “We don’t know at what depth the explosion is but there’s certainly a big explosion. With a bit of luck, things might be OK. But there’s 25 to 30 miners unaccounted for.”
St John Ambulance service said two rescue helicopters and 10 ambulances were heading for the mine.
The mine’s management said up to 35 workers were underground when the explosion occurred, and that “two miners had come to the surface and spoken with them, saying that they had lost communication with the other miners”, local media reported.
The mine reaches 1.4 miles (2.3km) underground and produces high grade coal for export that is used primarily in steel production.
Pike River has been operating since 2008, mining a seam that holds the largest-known deposit of hard coking coal in New Zealand, with 58.5m tonnes of coal in-ground, according to its website.
So far, that website has no news at all about the disaster; just self-aggrandizement.
Pike River says its coal preparation plant at the site is the largest and most modern in New Zealand and processes up to 1.5m tonnes a year of raw coal.
The mine is not far from the site of one of New Zealand’s worst mining disasters, an underground explosion in the state-owned Strongman Mine on 19 January, 1967, that killed 19 workers.
That was not really the worst New Zealand disaster, according to the New Zealand Herald:
Brunner, March 1896: Incorrect blasting set off a gas explosion – probably methane – killing 65 men.
According to Wikipedia on Pike River:
Opponents of the mine have strongly criticised the permit, noting that the coal is not intended for domestic use but simply a commercial operation, and thus should not have been allowed to go forward in a sensitive location. Forest & Bird also criticised the fact that the Minister of Conservation chose to ignore the report from the Department of Conservation stating that the mine would be damaging to the local environment. Greenpeace has also criticised the project for furthering the use of fossil fuels instead of developing sustainable alternatives.
8:10PM: One of those who escaped the mine was discovered by an electrician sent in to investigate a reported power outage. Three others followed the pair that emerged earlier, bringing the total who have survived to at least five.
Twenty-nine miners remained trapped in a New Zealand mine on Sunday with rescue efforts hampered by explosive gases: here.
Gold mining disaster in Suriname: here.
Two workers were killed and two others injured in an explosion and fire at a West Virginia chemical plant Thursday afternoon: here.