24 Mar 2012

Company expected to make 'best effort' to recover bodies

3:59 pm on 24 March 2012

The New Zealand Government says Solid Energy is expected to make its best efforts to retrieve the bodies of 29 men who died in the Pike River Coal mine disaster in 2010.

Receivers PricewaterhouseCoopers reached agreement to sell the West Coast mine to state-owned company Solid Energy on Friday, conditional on due diligence.


Settlement is expected by May this year. No other details about the sale or the price will be made public until it becomes unconditional.

Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley told Radio New Zealand News on Saturday many details have to be sorted out between the receivers and Solid Energy before retrieval of the bodies can begin.

"Solid Energy actually have to get down on the ground, do their own due diligence in terms of the physical situation (and) obviously the financial situation as well.

"That will take some time. I'm not putting them under pressure at all in terms of timelines."

Mr Heatley says the company's application for the transfer of the mining permit should include a commitment to use its best endeavours to retrieve the bodies.


The safety of those working at the mine also needs to be considered, he says.

The Labour MP for the West Coast says the sale of Pike River Coal is great news. Damien O'Connor says it means local knowledge and commitment to coal mining will be retained, but he wants any new owner to improve its safety.

"Solid Energy have a few challenges with one of their underground mines on the coast.

"It's important that whoever - and if it's going to be Solid Energy as we hope - goes back into Pike River they have the very highest standards of safety. It's a gassy mine, it has its challenges."

Mr O'Connor says he is confident the company will be committed to recovering the men's remains.

Family hopes for better communication

Carol Rose, who lost her son Stuart Mudge in the disaster, says she hopes communication with the families will improve if Solid Energy buys the mine.

Mrs Rose says the sale is the most exciting news she has received in the past 15 months, as up until this point families have felt cut off.

"We've been through a bit of a rough patch lately, we've been kept pretty much in the dark; we've had no news.

"It would have been really nice if we could have been kept informed a little more and I'm hoping that we will be kept informed in the future."

She says Solid Energy is a reputable company and she is confident it will push forward with trying to recover the remains.