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Government Minister Andrew Little entered the Pike River mine this morning during a visit to Greymouth today where spoke to the families of the victims of the tragedy.
Twenty-nine men died after a series of explosions at the West Coast mine in November 2010. Their bodies have not been recovered.
Little, the Minister responsible for the Pike River Re-entry, visited the mine portal with Families Reference Group representatives including Anna Osborne and Sonya Rockhouse before having lunch with families and agency staff.
He was briefed on recent and upcoming work before meeting with some families privately.
In a statment, Little said: “Today we walked together into the mine portal to demonstrate a safe re-entry is possible. I made the emotional journey with representatives of families who have fought for years for re-entry.
“The Pike River disaster was a national tragedy where 29 men went to work and never came home. We must learn the lessons of Pike River so it never happens again."
In November last year, Little handed over the key to the gate of the mine access road to the families of the deceased as a symbol of the new Government’s effort to re-enter the mine.
Cabinet also approved the establishment of the Pike River Recovery Agency, Te Kahui Whakamana Rua Tekau ma Iwa, to investigate what happened in the 2010 disaster and look into the possibility of manned re-entry into the mine’s drift.
The agency is working in partnership with the Pike River families to plan for decisions on the manned re-entry of the drift of the Pike River Mine.
Little has said the agency will look to re-enter the mine by the end of March 2019.
The former National government had rejected the families’ pleas for a manned re-entry as too risky.