12 Nov 2016

Pike River protest 'an occupation'

7:26 pm on 12 November 2016

Two bereaved women blockading the gates to the Pike River mine say they are doing it to show the country they have had enough of waiting for progress.

Anna Osborne, whose husband was one of the 29 men killed in the mine six years ago, is at the gates along with Sonya Rockhouse, who lost her son, Ben.

Protesters, including Anna Osborne and Sonya Rockhouse, are sitting in at the mine.

Protesters, including Anna Osborne and Sonya Rockhouse, are sitting in at the mine. Photo: Supplied

The sit-in was part of a protest by families of the victims and their supporters just outside the mine's gates.

They are demanding the Pike River mine not be permanently sealed before the 29 bodies within are recovered.

Protester Bernie Monk said gas levels were now safe enough to allow access to the mine's shaft.

Mr Monk, whose son was one of the 29 men killed in the 2010 explosions, said he planned to approach Prime Minister John Key about their complaints.

Protesters Anna Osborne, Bernie Monk and Sonya Rockhouse block the Pike River gate.

Protesters Anna Osborne, Bernie Monk and Sonya Rockhouse block the Pike River gate. Photo: Supplied

In a statement, Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Woodhouse said the advice was that methane levels in the environment beyond the mine's temporary seal remained unsafe.

"Claims that WorkSafe has evidence that conditions at the drift of Pike River Mine are safe enough to explore a previously unexplored stretch of the drift are not correct," the statement said.

The mine's owner Solid Energy said recovery of the bodies would not happen and it was in the final stages of preparing to permanently seal it.

Protest will last to anniversary

Ms Osborne, who is battling cancer, says she is prepared to go the distance with Ms Rockhouse.

She said she would not move from the gates until she heard from Prime Minister John Key - or was arrested.

"I've turned this protest into an occupation, we're now sitting at the gates of Pike River not allowing any vehicles into the site at all," she said.

"Until at least John Key hears our voices and recognises the fact that he has not done enough to help the families."

Pike River Coal Mine. Flames coming out of a ventilation shaft

A gas explosion at Pike River Mine on 30 November left 29 men dead. Their bodies have still not been recovered. Photo: AFP / Pool

She said the pair had up to three dozen supporters who would join them on and off.

"We've got a caravan up here, we've put that on the road, we've got all the stores we need. We're confident that we've got enough supplies to last us through until the anniversary."

Ms Rockhouse appealed for Mr Key to step up.

Council of Trade Unions secretary Sam Huggard said the Government should explain why the mine was to be sealed, in breach of the promise to return the bodies to the families.

"Families of the 29 men killed at Pike nearly six years ago have never had anyone being held accountable for the death of those men.

"And for them, sealing the mine, it removes the ability to at least get into that first couple of kilometres of the drift, to see if any of the bodies might be there."

Mr Huggard said the families deserved answers. He hoped people would send messages of support.

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