10 Nov 2012

Experts hand over Pike River recovery plan

6:20 pm on 10 November 2012

International experts have handed the owners of Pike River coal mine a report saying it is possible to recover the remains of the men who died there two years ago.

Former mine safety adviser to the Chinese government David Feickert, international methane gas expert David Creedy and Bob Stevenson, a former chief inspector for mines in Britain, have spent three days in Greymouth.

They had been asked by the families of 29 workers killed in explosions at the West Coast mine in November 2010 to determine if a recovery operation is feasible.

On Friday the experts gave Solid Energy and the Mines Rescue Service a plan that Mr Stevenson says would allow recovery workers to re-enter the mine and retrieve the remains.

"I don't want to give the impression that there's no risk here but what I will say is we can control that risk by sound proven mining practices that are available worldwide," he says.

They will now wait for Solid Energy to come up with feedback and questions about the report, which he says is still in its early stages and may change as new information about the mine comes to light.

Spokesperson for some of the families Bernie Monk says Solid Energy has previously indicated any recovery would have to be worked into a budget.

Mr Monk says the families do not accept that cost should play a part in determining whether the remains should be recovered.

Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley has not seen the experts' report but says any body recovery plan would have to be subjected to an exhaustive safety case examination.

He says in light of the Royal Commission findings, that examination would have a very high bar as no one will accept further loss of life at Pike River.