Families of men who died in the Pike River disaster have been told there are no guarantees about the recovery of the bodies of their relatives.
Solid Energy, which has confirmed it is buying the mine, held a private meeting with family members in Greymouth on Thursday, shortly after signing the purchase agreement.
The families were told that the company would not risk more lives to bring the 29 men's bodies out.
Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder later told reporters it may take up to eight years to recover the bodies, but nothing is certain.
He said it was not the answer families were hoping for but is the right and only realistic answer.
Neville Rockhouse, whose son Benjamin is among the dead, describes the decision as a kick in the guts.
In taking over the mine Solid Energy will pay Pike River Coal $7.5 million followed by a further $25 million once coal production starts.
In March the Government said that while there was no legal requirement for it to do so, it expected Solid Energy to make its best efforts to recover the bodies if it takes over the mine.