No plans to step in over Pike mine, says PM

4:00 pm on 22 September 2011

Prime Minister John Key says the Government has no intention of taking over any aspect of the Pike River mine at present.

A Royal Commission is being held in Greymouth into the deaths of 29 men killed in a series of explosions at the West Coast mine which began on 19 November last year.

Pike River Coal Ltd went into receivership in December.

The Labour Party says the Government should at least take control of the body recovery operation to give more certainty to families.

Mr Key will meet with the families when he visits Greymouth on Thursday but says there would be obstacles to government intervention.

"Firstly, it's in statutory receivership, so the Government would have to buy it out of receivership, one would assume.

"But, equally, would the Government really turn around and make a decision when mine safety experts are saying don't go into that mine?"

The head of the Mines Rescue Service told the Royal Commission on Wednesday the response to the disaster was paralysed by the excessive involvement of managers in Wellington.

Receivers reject recovery delay claim

Receivers of Pike River Coal say they are not deliberately helping to put off a mission to recover bodies from the mine in order to sell the business first.

A spokesperson for the families of the 29 men killed in the mine, Bernie Monk, says they are gutted the mine's statutory manager says it is too unsafe to allow a Mines Rescue proposal to re-enter the mine.

Mr Monk told Morning Report on Wednesday that every time it looks like some action will happen a new barrier is put in the way. "We've had enough," he says.

Mr Monk says he wants to know if the recovery attempt is being deliberately held up to help make sure the mine sells.

But John Fisk, of receivers PricewaterhouseCoopers, says he accepts that the proposal to send teams 2km into the mine with no fresh air compressors available in case of accident is unsafe.

He says two other options being developed include a staged re-entry, and plugging a bore hole so the mine can be re-ventilated.

Mr Fisk says he is awaiting final bids to buy the company and it's uncertain whether a sale can be completed before Christmas.

Mr Monk says the families will meet Mr Key in Greymouth on Thursday and will ask the Government to take back control of the recovery operation.

West Coast-based Labour MP Damien O'Connor says the Government has the authority to control the mine licence and should step in to fund the retrieval of the bodies.