A crunch five-hour showdown with the Government has left
Pike River mine families confident of recovering the bodies of
the dead 29 workers.
The meeting of 21 global mining experts, including
representatives of the Government's newly-formed High Hazards
Unit, Solid Energy, Mines Rescue, and consultants hired by
Pike families, sat in Christchurch today.
The risk of triggering explosions has meant the remains of
the men have been inaccessible since blasts ripped through
the mine on November 19, 2010.
Prime Minister John Key last year apologised to families for
the deaths of the men, but maintained a body recovery was
But today's meeting to discuss a plan to safely re-enter the
West Coast mine has left families confident of finding a way
"We've come a long way today. While it's probably going
slower than the families want, we just want to do everything
right," said Bernie Monk, spokesman for most of the families.
"We're all sort of on the same page ... there are just a few
items that we have to cover yet, and I think we'll eventually
get there. It's just a matter of ticking all the right boxes
as we go along."
Having the mining expertise of Australia, the UK, and New
Zealand all in one room for the first time was "very
beneficial", Mr Monk said.
The parties have agreed to continue developing and assessing
two potential methods of exploring the main entry tunnel,
known as the drift.
Progress was being made, but there was more work to do, the
Pike River drift exploration working group said in a
The group believed both methods had the potential to satisfy
the criteria that they must be safe as well as being
technically and financially feasible.
Once a preferred option was agreed, and a plan firmed up, it
would then be reviewed by the High Hazards Unit before being
considered by ministers.
"The Government has indicated it is prepared to fund a safe,
technically feasible and financially credible drift
exploration project if one is developed," the statement said.
The working group says an update will be given once decisions
have been made at the end of the process.
Mr Monk, whose son Michael died in the tragedy, agreed that
safety had to be "top priority" when planning a re-entry to
Another sticking point between the parties today was that if
anything went wrong in the first phase of drift reclamation,
it could jeopardise any opportunity of going deeper down the
mine's 2.3km tunnel where most of the men likely remain.
"If we could come up with a viable and safe plan, Mr Key said
he would fund it," Mr Monk said.
"We must cover all bases before we jump into the fire, I
reckon. While we didn't come to full agreement on a couple of
issues today, we're confident we can sort through them and
get the go ahead."