Receiver says opening Pike River mine still an option

The receivers of the Pike River Coal mine are still considering the option of re-opening the mine.

Receiver John Fisk of PricewaterhouseCoopers said today one option was to temporarily seal the mine while other longer-term options were evaluated.

The receivers were still considering the option of eventually re-opening the mine so that it could again be a major employer and contribute substantially to the West Coast economy, he said.

Mr Fisk, David Bridgman and Malcolm Hollis, partners from PricewaterhouseCoopers, were appointed receivers on December 13.

"As receivers, our principal role is to achieve the financial returns for the company's secured lenders.

"However, in the case of Pike River Coal Ltd, we are very aware of the extenuating circumstances surrounding not only the company but also the families and the West Coast community, and the implications of the company's receivership on all parties," he said.

Today, Prime Minister John Key said the mine would probably be sealed.

"It's likely that the mine would be sealed, but it would be up to the receivers if it would be sealed permanently," Mr Key said.

Families of the mine victims say the operation to recover the bodies of the 29 men has been stopped too soon.

The men died in a series of explosions, the first on November 19, in the coal mine about 50km from Greymouth, and efforts to recover the bodies have continued for the past two months.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad yesterday announced police were stopping their recovery operation -- handing over the onus and the ongoing costs of the operation -- to receivers of Pike River Coal.

Mr Broad said there was little chance the bodies would ever be recovered from their tomb, 2km inside the Paparoa Range, and that experts had advised the likelihood of getting into the mine safely was unrealistic.

Spokesman for the victims' families Bernie Monk said it was too soon to stop the operation, and that the GAG (Gorniczy Agregat Gasniczy) machine brought in to help stabilise the mine had only just begun working the way it should.

"The families have had a kick in the guts all the way through, from people saying 'we're going to get them out, we're going to get them out, and we're going to do this and we're going to do that'," Mr Monk, whose 23-year-old son Michael was among the dead, told Radio New Zealand.

" Now there's real opportunity to stand up and say 'the GAG is now working properly and there is a great opportunity'."

Kathy Lintott, who lost her 28-year-old nephew Riki Keane, said Mr Key had fallen short of his promise to the families that everything that could be done to recover the bodies would be.

 

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