31 May 2012

Pike families abandon hope of recovering bodies

5:04 am on 31 May 2012

Families of the men who died at the Pike River mine in 2010 have abandoned all hope of recovering the bodies and accept the risk is too high.

A spokesperson for most of the families, Bernie Monk, confirmed to Radio New Zealand on Wednesday that the decision was made at a meeting on Tuesday night.

Twenty-nine men died after explosions at the West Coast mine which began on 19 November 2010.

After hearing information from technical experts, Mr Monk said the relatives now have a wider picture of the problems in the mine and the difficulty of the recovery process. He said the risk of death to others far outweighs the families' desire for a re-entry.

Mr Monk lost his son Michael in the disaster and wants a memorial for the workers to be erected inside the mine if it is reopened. He hoped the families would now be able to find peace.

The Prime Minister said on Wednesday there was always a remote possibility that bodies could be recovered if the mine opens.

John Key said his understanding is that the chances of getting into the mine with the sole purpose of recovering the bodies is extremely bleak and believed he had always been realistic with the families.

Mr Key maintains he has always said that the best chance of getting into the mine and for body recovery was aligned with a sale of the mine and, therefore, commercial mining operations.

Solid Energy 'still committed'

Pike River Coal went into receivership in December 2010 and was purchased by Solid Energy on 11 May this year.

Solid Energy said on Wednesday that it remained committed to retrieving the remains.

A spokesperson said its experts gave more detail at Tuesday's meeting about why recovering the men was extremely difficult to do safely and could only happen as part of a commercial mining operation in the future.

The spokesperson said no new developments were discussed.

The families said they would no longer try to stop mining resuming at the site.