The Pike River Coal mine could be safe to enter and functional again by Monday, with the help of a jet engine which will suck oxygen out of the explosive mine.
The Queensland Mine Rescue Service says that one of their two engines arrived this morning and is already at the mine site. It will take up to three days to set up the operation which has been “tried and tested” in both Australia and the United States, according to spokesperson Glenys Ayling.
Devlin says the Gorniczy Agregat Gasniczy (GAG) engine emits carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water vapour, starving the mine of oxygen and preventing combustion, and once the fires are extinct, rescuers can enter using breathing equipment, or fresh air could be allowed back in.
The machinery is about 12 metres long when assembled, weighs 2.5 tonnes and was originally developed in Poland for fighting mine fires.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said she was devastated by the tragedy and has offered pledged support fromt the Queensland government, most importantly the GAG-jet machinery.
“The GAG-jet unit and the 15 QMRS personnel are based at Dysart in central Queensland.”
A fire at West Virginia’s Loveridge Mine was extinguished and workers able to re-enter using the GAG system in 2003.
The other options to extract the bodies of the miners are to inject nitrogen into the mine or trap the mine’s own gas, both of which would eventually extinguish fires.
All the options have their issues and potential problems, including difficulties obtaining the equipment and issues presented by the terrain in the mine, but most experts predict the GAG system would be the quickest and most successful.
Authorities and rescue teams say they still cannot provide a time frame for getting the bodies out and predict they may not have completed the operation before the memorial on Monday.