Plans to re-enter Pike River mine

A panel of mining experts will meet in Christchurch tomorrow to work on a plan to re-enter Pike River coalmine.

The group of about 18 will include representatives from the Government’s High Hazards Unit, Pike families, Solid Energy and Mines Rescue Trust, reported.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key pushed for the meeting last year after calls for help from the families of the 29 men killed when the underground mine exploded in November 2010.

Key wrote to the families before Christmas acknowledging their frustrations at the stalled recovery mission.

Key confirmed the Government would fund an exploration of the mine’s 2.3km tunnel, where some bodies might remain, if a safe and technically feasible plan was developed.

He wants experts from all sides to reach a consensus on the re-entry plan so families could get "closure one way or another as soon as reasonably possible".

"I am concerned that unless all of the various experts are involved, there will simply be a continuation of the current divergent views and progress will continue to be slow."

Spokesman for Pike River Families, Bernie Monk, said he hoped the meeting would result in a plan to re-enter the tunnel down to a rockfall that is blocking the mine’s main entrance, where it is believed most of the men’s bodies are located.

"We are just concentrating on re-entering the drift. We are just continuing what we have already started," said Monk, who lost his son Michael, 23, in the explosion.

Dangerous conditions inside the mine prevented any rescue attempts after the explosion.

Since then recovery missions have stalled and mines rescue have only reached 300m along the mine’s tunnel while they built a temporary seal in 2011.

Monk said if the expert panel ruled out body recovery, families would accept their consensus.

In November, A Royal Commission found that the Pike River mine disaster was preventable and caused by the mine being used before it was ready.


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