Receivers PriceWaterhouseCoopers will provide NZ Police with the re-entry plan to recover the bodies of the 29 miners who died after explosions in the mine, as families grow increasingly impatient with the pace of the recovery.
Receiver John Fisk told Radio New Zealand the plan, which was prepared in consultation with a range of experts, would only be achieved if each step was successful.
It was ultimately the police's decision as to whether to proceed with the re-entry plan, he reportedly said.
“The most important thing that needs to happen immediately is for the atmosphere in the mine to be safe so that people can enter it, and until that's achieved no further steps can be taken,”' he told Radio New Zealand.
Closing the mine “could be the ultimate outcome” if the plan failed and “all we can do is really try and facilitate a process and we're putting every effort we can into doing that”.
A site inspection by Canterbury University professor David Bell on Monday confirmed that efforts to inertise the mine using the GAG machine could take a “very long time” and that if that proved unachievable with current methods “sealing the mine remained an option”, NZ Police operation commander superintendent Gary Knowles said.
“We've been looking at every possible option, and sealing the mine has always been among those options,” superintendent Knowles said.
“Any decision along those lines would be based on expert evidence and be made at a higher level.”
The GAG machine brought over from Queensland, which has been pumping water vapour into the mine for about three weeks, and a Floxal nitrogen generator to cool the mine have been criticised for taking too long to make the mine safe enough for re-entry and extinguish any remaining coal fires.
The GAG inertisation process was further delayed yesterday as torrential rain hampered work at the site.
High winds and pouring rain on New Zealand’s wild West Coast caused delays yesterday after the GAG machine was shut down for scheduled maintenance at 8am.
Shotcreting work was planned around the portal during the shutdown, but due to the weather the shotcreting was unable to be completed and the GAG was turned back on just before 10am.
NZ Police said the weather was also preventing gas sampling from the mine.