PM doubts mine re-entry possible

5:04 pm on 13 December 2012

Prime Minister John Key has told the families of the Pike River victims he is prepared to organise a meeting between his experts and theirs on re-entering the West Coast mine, but doesn't see how re-entry could happen.

Twenty-nine men died in a series of methane explosions at the underground coal mine that began on 19 November 2010. Two men managed to get out to safety.

John Key greets the families' lead solicitor Colin Smith before the meeting.

John Key greets the families' lead solicitor Colin Smith before the meeting. Photo: RNZ

Mr Key met some of the families of the men who died at a behind closed doors session in Greymouth to discuss how the Government plans to address systemic failures in health and safety regulations outlined in the Royal Commission's report into the disaster.

He apologised to the families for the lack of health and safety regulations and discussed implementing the 16 recommendations made by the Royal Commission that investigated the fatal explosion.

Mr Key said that, if either the mine's owner, Solid Energy, or the families can come up with a "safe and credible plan" to enter the mine then the Government will contribute funding toward that.

The Prime Minister said he understands completely the families' desire to get into the mine. However, he said he told them plainly that all the advice he has had is that it will not be possible to enter the mine-proper to recover the remains.

Solid Energy is expected to present a feasibility study on a mine re-entry to the Prime Minister's office.

In October this year, the families recruited three international mining experts to look into the possibility of a body recovery operation. Their report, which says such an operation is possible, has been presented to Mr Key.

A spokesperson for many of the families, Bernie Monk, told media after the meeting the families are beyond apologies. He says they want to start seeing resolutions towards opening up the mine.