Kiwi mine atmosphere potentially explosive, says rescue chief

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Greymouth (New Zealand), Nov.21 (ANI): Sending rescuers into the Pike River mine would be like asking them to walk up the barrel of a gun, the country's mine rescue chief has said.

NZ Mines Rescue manager Trevor Watts said the atmosphere in the mine, where 29 men have been trapped since an explosion on Friday afternoon, is potentially still explosive.

"We're still in the gun barrel," stuff.co.nz quoted him as telling reporters.

"You put a bullet at one end of the gun it's going to come out the other end. It's not like walking down to the local supermarket. The floor conditions are uneven. We can't just throw face masks on people and put them into the mine in a hurry," he added.e labelled the conditions the rescue team were working with as "vast".

The mine is the source of high-grade coal used in steel production, most particularly for the Indian market.

Pike River Coal was listed on the New Zealand and Australian Stock Exchanges in July 2007 and has been in the NZX Top 50 listed companies since July 2008.

It has three major shareholders: cornerstone shareholder New Zealand Oil and Gas Limited (30 percent), and Indian customers Gujarat NRE Limited (7 percent) and Saurashtra World Holdings Private Limited (6 percent).

It now has almost 350 million shares on issue, currently held by more than 8000 shareholders, and a market capitalisation of 400 million New Zealand dollars in mid-2009. (ANI)

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