14 Jan 2011

Receivers given deadline on Pike River mine future

9:31 pm on 14 January 2011

Receivers of Pike River Coal say they can give no guarantee of meeting a Government deadline to reveal their intentions for the mine and it is not their responsibility to be involved in a recovery operation.

Police on Thursday announced an end to their efforts to recover the bodies of 29 men who died in a series of explosions at the West Coast mine starting on 19 November last year.

Pike River Coal was put in receivership on 13 December. Conditions in the mine near Greymouth have made it too unsafe to attempt to recover the bodies.

Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee on Thursday said receivers PricewaterhouseCoopers would be given a deadline of Monday 5pm.

Receiver John Fisk says his office will be working through the weekend to try and formulate a plan, but more time may be needed. Costings, logistics and risk assessment are still being worked through.

He says the receivers must deal with Pike River Coal's assets and the commercial aspects of a recovery effort, including possibly sealing the mine to enable it to be potentially re-opened in the future.

Mr Fisk says the receivers have about $10 million in cash, plus a number of assets above the ground and in the mine.

However, he says if there not enough money to re-enter the mine, the land will be handed back to the Government. If that happens, the Department of Conservation is most likely to assume control.

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn says the receivers are not in a position to finance a recovery operation - nor is it their responsibility.

Decision for receivers and company - police

Police Commissioner Howard Broad says the responsibility to decide whether it will be safe to re-enter the Pike River Coal mine must lie with the company and its receivers.

Relatives of some of the workers who died say the police decision to cease recovery efforts has been made too quickly and they are devastated.

However, Mr Broad told Summer Report on Friday he can not reasonably see any chance of safely re-entering the mine in the foreseeable future.

Mr Broad says he keeps coming back to the fact that Pike River Coal and its receivers PricewaterhouseCoopers are in control of the mine.

The operation has cost about $5 million so far, he says.