6 Nov 2014

Pike families bracing for the worst

5:13 am on 6 November 2014

The families of miners killed in the Pike River disaster say they are bracing themselves to be told by owner Solid Energy that it would not be re-entering the mine's main tunnel.

Solid Energy has said a special meeting may be held to discuss whether the mine's drift can be safely re-entered.

Solid Energy has said a special meeting may be held to discuss whether the mine's drift can be safely re-entered. Photo: RNZ

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MP Damien O'Connor

Damien O'Connor Photo: RNZ

Twenty-nine men died after a series of explosions at the West Coast mine in November 2010. Families would be updated by the company at 9am tomorrow in Greymouth, followed by a media briefing.

West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor said today news that machinery vital to the re-entry had been returned to its owner seemed to indicate that the company was about to walk away from the mine.

Bernie Monk, who lost his son Michael in the disaster, said the families want to take over the mine themselves if Solid Energy and the Government wound not allow the re-entry.

"If they think that this mine is so unsafe - relinquish the licence. If it's a no - I'm telling you now, the families are not going to accept Solid Energy's reasons for doing it."

Mr Monk said families were meeting privately tonight to prepare for the decision. He said mining experts in Britain have offered to oversee the re-entry.

Solid Energy confirmed that it had withdrawn a nitrogen machine and infrastructure from the mine, but said this was at the request of the plant's owner and not related to the re-entry project.

However, Damien O'Connor said it looks like Solid Energy was walking away from the project, and as a key stakeholder in the state-owned enterprise Prime Minister John Key should intervene on behalf of the families.

PM to meet with families

The Prime Minister would travel to the West Coast tomorrow to meet with the families. John Key would be joined by Environment Minister Nick Smith and Energy Minister Simon Bridges.

Mr Key would not be drawn on what the decision would be, and said he wanted firstly to give the families the dignity of talking to them face to face and for them to talk with Solid Energy.

Mr Bridges told reporters that the Government was informed yesterday about the company's decision and was advised that machinery vital to the mine's re-entry had been returned to its owner.

"A nitrogen generator is required in New Caledonia for a potentially urgent situation there. It's not actually unlike what we saw around the Pike River tragedy where we had equipment come in from other countries. So I don't think you should read anything into that about Solid's decision."

Relatives of Pike River victims protesting in Greymouth against Mr Key's visit.

Relatives of Pike River victims called for the mine to be reopened during John Key's visit to Greymouth in August. Photo: RNZ / Patrick Phelps

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