1 Dec 2016

Police caution protesters at Pike River Mine entrance

3:42 pm on 1 December 2016

A group of protesters at the Pike River Mine say they were threatened with arrest after a confrontation with police this morning.

Protests were held at the entrance to the Pike River mine.

Protesters have been gathering outside the Pike River Mine entrance in recent weeks, in opposition to it being sealed. Photo: Supplied

About 25 protesters gathered at the mine's gates about 5am, after an unsuccessful meeting yesterday between Solid Energy and some of the families of the 29 men who died there in the 2010 mine explosion.

Police sent 10 officers to the site to escort Solid Energy employees through the gates.

One of the protesters, Karl Barkley, an engineer whose neighbour was one of those who died, said the protesters were staunch and fended off entry for a while.

"We all moved closer to the gate and we all stood staunchly across the gate, refusing to move for quite a while until we got warned again, and if we didn't move we were going to be arrested."

They eventually allowed the cars through after police warned them they would be arrested.

The families would not stop protesting until Prime Minister John Key and Solid Energy met with them, he said.

The police said the protest was peaceful, and the officers were only there to help the mine workers enter the gates.

Three of the family members of the men who died met with Solid Energy chief executive Tony King in Greymouth yesterday, at Solid Energy's request.

Bernie Monk, a spokesperson for the families, said the meeting was a waste of time, and the company refused to meet with experts who said the mine could be safely re-entered.

The families have been protesting the permanent sealing of the mine, saying there are still options to recover their loved ones' bodies and the mine could still contain important evidence.

Solid Energy, which acquired the mine assets in 2012, said earlier this month there had been an exhaustive investigation into the feasibility of safe re-entry, and it would be too risky to attempt.

It said it was required by WorkSafe to permanently close the entrance to the mine.

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