The receivers for the Pike River mine have told the families of the 29 men killed there they hope to start discussions in March about bringing them out.
But the men's families say they have little faith in the receivers, and are sceptical the bodies will ever be recovered.
The families' spokesperson Bernie Monk says the receivers told them on Wednesday that the drilling of a borehole giving closer access to the site of the first explosion is running to schedule.
He says PricewaterhouseCoopers told them that, barring a major setback, it will be able to start discussions in March about how the men's remains can be retrieved.
Mr Monk says while it sounds like good news, they've lost confidence in all those involved with Pike River, and wouldn't be surprised if this time next year the men are still underground.
He says discussions are already under way about potential legal action, if the families can't get a clear assurance after March that a recovery attempt will be made.
"I think we've been put on the back burner ... and they've put money before getting our guys out and the families realise this now and we're sick of it," he says.
Mr Monk also says the families are growing more and more frustrated about being kept in the dark about the sale of the mine, which looks set to be bought by one of two Chinese companies.