14 Feb 2019

Assistant Police Commissioner says staff won't enter mine yet

From Checkpoint, 6:07 pm on 14 February 2019

Police have made a decision if they will re-enter Pike River mine - and that decision is that they might or might not.

This comes as miners receive forensic training on what to do if they encounter important evidence when they re-enter the mine.

Today the police announced they will not re-enter the mine until the entire 2.3 kilometre drift is searched and recovered by miners.

The exception to this is if “critical evidence” is found, police staff would reassess.

The drift is a long tunnel that leads to the mine workings, where it’s believed remains of bodies are most likely to be found.

Today’s announcement comes three months after the government announced the re-entry would go ahead.

But at the same time the police said it had not yet decided if they would also go in.

It is likely evidence will be found as to what happened eight years ago when the mine exploded,

That evidence could end up in a court room.

Police assistant commissioner Tusha Penny said this was an “agile approach”.

“The forensic examination is important, however the safety of all involved takes precedence,” she said.

Ms Penny compared the operation to a police examination of a P lab - safety staff would search the entire property to ensure it was safe before forensic staff would be allowed in.

But to ensure any evidence was not compromised, a dozen miners were undertaking mine training this week.

In a large room near Pike River Mine’s portal, forensic experts from the police trained some of the Pike River recovery agency’s on-site team in how to carry out forensic work.

Large pieces of plastic were stuck to the floor, and police staff showed the miners how to don protective gear - including body suits, gloves, masks and glasses.

The Pike River Recovery Agency’s chief operating officer Dinghy Pattinson also supports the police’s decision.

“They aren’t mining people, they aren’t familiar with the environment.

“They are going to be on site all of the time we are going to be underground.”

The Pike River Recovery Agency said it would almost certainly not be this month.