Wednesday, 7 August 2013

New Zealand: Plan to enter Pike River mine ready to go

3 News has learned a plan to re-enter the Pike River mine is complete and ready for approval.

The plan has been developed by mine owner Solid Energy, the families and the Government. And the Prime Minister has pledged $10 million to pay for it.

For nearly three years the families of the 29 men killed in the Pike River disaster have been waiting for re-entry to the mine.

"I understand these things are being discussed and they're working through it literally right now," says Energy Minister Simon Bridges.

The joint committee has been working on a proposal to enter the mine's tunnel since February. Two sources have told 3 News it's been completed.

The plan now goes to the five-person Solid Energy board, we're told, this month. If they deem the plan safe and so does the Government's High Hazards Unit, it's rubber-stamped and sent to the Energy Minister to be taken to Cabinet.

"I won't muck around," says Mr Bridges. "I will move on that with real haste and get that to Cabinet."

Once with Cabinet, it won't take long for the Government to open its purse and fund the exploration.

"I wouldn't expect that to take more than days – certainly not weeks or months," says Mr Bridges.

Prime Minister John Key personally pledged the money to enter the mine – up to $10 million. But he says beyond the tunnel, or drift, which is blocked by rockfall, entry into the mine itself may be impossible.

"I worry about how far we'll be able to get up the drift," says Mr Key. "But going no further, they'll be close to their loved ones, but not close enough."

But this plan could still lead to bodies being recovered.

"It would probably be small numbers of men," says Mr Key.

"There is still the door for prosecutions to happen, so I think it's important we get down there and do the whole job, and number one is get the men out and answer those questions," says families' spokesman Bernie Monk.

The plan could still stall through these final stages of approval process because of safety concerns. But Mr Monk says the families are now in the best position they've been in, in the almost three years since the explosion, and they will keep the pressure on.

Wednesday 7 August 2013


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