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The father of one of the men killed in the Pike River mining disaster says the families have always believed the Government wasn't telling the truth about mine safety.

Bernie Monk
Bernie Monk

The Government has long said high concentrations of methane inside the West Coast mine make it too risky to re-enter to retrieve the bodies of the 29 men killed in the November 2010 blast, because the gas could explode.

But footage leaked to Newshub yesterday showed two Mines Rescue workers inside the mine just three months after the explosion. Wearing breathing apparatus, they can be seen sticking cardboard onto the robot before it moves along the access tunnel.

The robot is seen to be steaming or smoking well inside the mine, but the workers do not panic - and nothing explodes.

Families are angry that they were never shown the footage and say it supports their view that a manned re-entry is possible.

Bernie Monk, whose son Michael was killed in the explosion at the coal mine, said the new footage did not come as a surprise.

"This is something we brought to the Government six years ago. It's been a complete cover-up right from the word 'Go'.

"It's something that we have known about for a long time, but we didn't want to have to go to the extreme of bringing it out in the public...but after six years we just can't accept the way the families have been treated."

Mr Monk said the footage made clear what the families have long said - that recovery workers could safely go down into the mine to retrieve the bodies of the men killed.

Workers in the video are unconcerned because the mine's atmosphere is almost 100% methane, and at such high concentrations the gas is inert.

"In other words, we could put one of the biggest rockets with engines blowing flames and it wouldn't explode."

The families have hired independent experts who have consistently said that the mine is safe to enter. The families want to use what they say is an even safer option than wearing breathing apparatus - pumping in nitrogen which would push out the methane before letting in fresh air.

Mr Monk wanted all recordings from the mine released.

"All the recordings that were taken at the mine were removed by police and were never ever shown to the families, but we knew they existed."

According to Newshub police have had the footage for six years but have not shown it to the families or the Pike River Royal Commission of Inquiry because it was "assessed as having no evidential value".

Mr Monk claimed the Government had been "completely dishonest" with the people of New Zealand.

"My argument is: Hey Government, step aside, stop lying, stop covering up for the country, let our experts in, we'll get the job done and get on with life."

A lawyer for the Pike families, Nigel Hampton, QC, told Newstalk ZB this morning the video footage shows re-entry is possible.

He said the Government, Solid Energy, the families and experts from both sides should sit down and begin nutting out a proper staged, manned re-entry.

New video changes nothing - English

Prime Minister Bill English says he was unaware of the new video footage until last night, when it was broadcast but does not change anything.

Mr English told Newstalk ZB this morning any decision to go into the mine has to be made under work and safety regulations ad there had been no cover up of the disaster.

He said police had told him that the workers seen in the footage were in the mine's portal, not in the drift. It did not change the Government's position that re-entering the mine was too dangerous, he said.

"The assessment has to be made by the people who are in control of the workplace and the employees," he said.

"It's their judgment in the end about whether it is safe because if people go in there and they die because of an explosion it is absolutely clear who would be responsible."

Labour and New Zealand First were "silly" for suggesting otherwise, Mr English said.

No evidential value, say police

President of the New Zealand Police Conduct Association Shannon Parker has lodged a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority, saying the media coverage of the footage gave rise to some important questions.

Ms Parker raised a number of questions including how police established the footage didn't have enough "evidential value" to present at the Royal Commission and what other information police had not provided.

In a statement, police say they believe the men in the video were standing at the entrance to the drift and operating the robot by remote control.

"No one was allowed to enter into the drift as part of the robot operation."

The footage was assessed as having "no evidential value" and wasn't released, Detective Superintendent Pete Read said.

- NZ Herald, additional reporting NZ Newswire


Why did they only show this. now... why was it not shown years ago... It seems they did not want us to know.....

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