Twenty-nine miners trapped in a New Zealand coal mine may be rescued by a military robot used by police to help end a three-day gun-battle last year.
The robot is on standby with demolition specialists at the Pike River mine where a gas explosion trapped the miners, including two Australians, on Friday.
If deployed, the robot will descend into the mine to capture details of a trapped underground loader that is blocking an access path. However, first the site will need to be cleared of dangerous gases which could explode if the machine was to set off sparks.
The defence force robot, called the Remote Positioning Device Wheelbarrow Revolution, is equipped with four cameras to help it move and aim weapons and will be fitted with an extension cable to allow it to access the miners, believed to be further down the 2km tunnel.
The robot working alongside an operator (Credit: NZ Defence)
New Zealand's military uses the robot to destroy improvised explosive devices and ordnance. Last year, it was used to help police contain a New Zealand man who had shot dead a policeman and a civilian in a three-day battle that rocked the nation.
The 24 New Zealanders, two Australians, two Britons and one South African have been out of contact with mine management since the explosion.
Preparing to search a vehicle (Credit: NZ Defence)
AAP said that mine rescue teams from NSW and Queensland have been in NZ for the past few days and several more are on standby to travel there as required.