Families want men out of mine, no matter the cost

Family members of the 29 men killed in the Pike River Coal mine disaster say they will not accept receivers putting a dollar value on getting their men out.

Receivers PricewaterhouseCoopers finally took control of the ill-fated West Coast mine yesterday after police announced they were ending their recovery operation. Twenty-nine men were killed in a series of explosions beginning on November 19 and efforts to recover their bodies have so far been unsuccessful.

"The family members are quite concerned that receivers are taking over as now its down to a dollar value to get our guys out," Pike River Mine Committee spokesman Bernie Monk told NZPA.

At an irate meeting between family members and receivers last night, family of the dead men made it clear that they were not going to sit back and take everything that they were told, Mr Monk said.

They did not accept the reasoning from receivers that it may never be possible to return the men's bodies to them.

"If receivers don't keep us in the loop and if they don't come to us we will certainly do something about it."

Mr Monk said he had spoken with overseas miners who had told him it would be possible to get bodies out but it would be a costly process.

Pike River Coal mine receivers have set aside $5 million for recovery efforts, though these have stalled because of the Christchurch earthquake.

The money would be spent on efforts to create an inert mine atmosphere with no underground heat sources, but there was no guarantee that would work and the bodies could be recovered.

Resources from Western Australia due to help with recovery of the men's bodies were diverted to Christchurch and that had put back the process for getting a robot in the mine, receiver John Fisk said.

The robot had been due to enter the mine a few weeks ago.

"We obviously don't have unlimited resources and there will be factors that will limit our ability but at the moment we are going to plan."

Receivers were looking at a timetable for the sales process now that handover had been completed and the first step would be to call for formal expressions of interest from parties. There had been a number of unsolicited approaches so far.

"We don't actually have a timetable set for the sales process yet and that will be one of the first things we will focus on," Mr Fisk told NZPA.

It has been estimated there could be $6 billion worth of coal in the mine.

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