John Key has 'unfinished business' at Pike River, victims' families say

Prime Minister John Key and Pike River Coal CEO Peter Whittall at a press conference after the mine disaster in 2010.
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Prime Minister John Key and Pike River Coal CEO Peter Whittall at a press conference after the mine disaster in 2010.

Pike River families are calling on John Key to stop the sealing of the West Coast mine before he steps down as Prime Minister.

Sonya Rockhouse, whose son Ben died in the 2010 disaster, said Key faced a choice about the legacy he left behind.

"He can either do the right thing now before he goes, or forever be the prime minister who turned his back on our boys," she said. 

Pike River families and supporters protest the mine being sealed and ask contractors to down tools.
JOANNE CARROLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Pike River families and supporters protest the mine being sealed and ask contractors to down tools.

"We have expert advice that the drift can be re-entered to retrieve evidence of what actually happened down there, and our loved ones' remains. All we want is the chance to do it, and he can give us that if he chooses.

READ MORE:
Dame Fiona Kidman calls on all New Zealand to support Pike protest
Pike River families meeting with Solid Energy a waste of time
Contractors confronted at Pike River
Allied concrete pulls out of Pike River seal contract
Pike protest ends with threats of arrest as mine sealing confirmed to go ahead
​* Pike River father Bernie Monk says mine is safe for reentry
Full coverage: Pike River mine disaster

"When he resigned [yesterday] John Key talked about the Pike River disaster being one of the defining moments of his time as prime minister. He needs to make good on his promises or Pike River will define him as a failure."

Prime Minister John Key announced his resignation at parliament yesterday.
MONIQUE FORD/FAIRFAX NZ

Prime Minister John Key announced his resignation at parliament yesterday.

Key announced his resignation on Monday and will step down on December 12. 

Family members and supporters have been protesting at the mine access road since November 12 in a bid to stop Solid Energy permanently sealing the mine with concrete before the drift – a tunnel leading into the mine – is explored for remains. They say international experts believe a safe re-entry is possible and Mines Rescue are willing to do it.

In response, Solid Energy directors have written an open letter which will be published in newspaper advertisements. 

The letter says the directors wish a safe entry was realistic and understood the families' frustrations.

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"Re-entry of the Pike River Mine is too dangerous and cannot be made be safe . . . Out of respect for all those involved we wish we could continue quietly getting on with the job – acknowledged by the families back in November 2014 as the safest course of action – to seal the drift and hand over the mine to DOC," it says. 

Solid Energy had "thoroughly assessed" the families' expert reports and proposals and discarded them as "fundamentally unsafe".

"Nothing has changed to alter that decision. It is reckless of those who are not in possession of the full facts, and have no legal responsibility for the lives of those who would be put at risk, to claim otherwise.

"Our decision was based on an exhaustive investigation into the feasibility of safe re-entry and was backed by independent international expertise."

The letter addresses a number of "inaccurate statements" including that inspection of the drift was safe, or that Solid Energy was sealing the mine because it was colluding with the Government in a cover up plot.

It said the fatal risks included collapse of the tunnel and fire. It would need to implement at least 600 risk control activities. 

It said the seal would be five metres thick and had been modified to be technically reversible at the request of families. 

They were not going to change their plans because of "poorly informed commentators". 

"Any further loss of life in this mine is unacceptable and any possibility of other families having to go through what the Pike families have suffered is not a risk we believe should be taken."

 - Stuff

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