An international team of mine safety experts says the bodies
of the 29 Pike River miners can be recovered.
A proposal to enter the collapsed mine and recover the
victims has been presented today to new West Coast mine
owners Solid Energy, Mines Rescue and the Government.
The detailed plans outline exactly how to go underground and
safely reach the men, which the grieving families have been
fighting for since the November 2010 tragedy.
"My experts are very confident," said Bernie Monk, spokesman
for most of the 29 families, whose son Michael died in the
"The plans include how to get down the drift, how to get the
miners out of the mine, and all of the costings."
Dave Feickert, a New Zealand mining consultant, along with
former UK principal mines inspector Bob Stevenson, and Dr
David Creedy, a fellow Englishman and methane gas specialist,
arrived on the West Coast on Monday - just hours after a
scathing Royal Commission of Inquiry report into the disaster
Dr Creedy said the report "read like a horror story" and they
were shocked by its findings, which made 16 recommendations
to improve mining health and safety.
On Monday, the independent team vowed that by the time they
left Greymouth this weekend, they would be able to tell the
families conclusively if a recovery operation was safe and
They have spent the week meeting the new mine owners, Solid
Energy, as well as Mines Rescue officials, Ministry of
Business, Innovation and Employment officials and locals.
They have pored over the Royal Commission report, visited the
Pike River mine, and ventured 170m underground, while even
flying over the mine in a helicopter to better understand its
Now, they think they have found a way in to recover the
"We've worked extremely hard this week and I've been very
impressed with their work," Mr Monk said.
He confirmed the plans were sent to the Government, Mines
Rescue and Solid Energy today.
Solid Energy said today it had worked with the experts all
week, providing them with information and mine access.
"We're looking forward to seeing what they come up with," a
Mr Monk accepted the plans were only a starting point and was
not allowing himself to get too hopeful because he'd been
"kicked in the guts every time".
"There will be questions over what is proposed but the
experts are prepared to front up and answer them."
Mr Monk said he would push Prime Minister John Key to fund a
recovery operation if a feasible plan was possible.
"What we've always wanted is to bring our loved ones back
Mr Stevenson said on Monday that going back into the mine was
a "serious situation", with high volumes of potentially
explosive methane gas in the mine.
"This is not a decision we'll take lightly," he said.
He said re-entry to mines has been done in the UK many times
but none of them were operating under such "appalling"
standards as Pike River.