Mining experts assess Pike body recovery

Last updated 05:00 07/11/2012
Daniel Tobin

Three mine experts who have been brought into the country by the families of Pike River victims talk about what they intend to do.

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Families of the 29 men killed in the Pike River mine blast will know by the end of the week whether independent mining experts consider a body retrieval mission possible.

International mine consultants Bob Stevenson, David Creedy and Dave Feickert are in Greymouth at the request of the victims' families to provide independent advice on a mine re-entry plan.

Stevenson, a former principal mines inspector in Britain, said they hoped to have an answer for the families by Saturday.

The experts will meet Solid Energy management, Mines Rescue and local experts before making their recommendation.

Families hope the drift - a shallow tunnel that leads to the blocked area of the mine - contains the remains of some of the victims.

A plan had been presented to the experts after input from New Zealand and international mining officials.

Bernie Monk, spokesman for some of the victims' families, said that if the three experts approved a body retrieval mission, he would take the plan to Prime Minister John Key and ask him to implement it. If the experts found a re-entry was not feasible, "we must accept it".

Monk, who lost his son Michael in the November 2010 mine blast, said the families had been forced to get independent advice because Key had never shared the information on which the Government's decisions not to re-enter the mine were based.

"That still saddens me," Monk said.

Stevenson said he had been involved in many mine re-entries, but "not under such appalling mining standards as this".

He had read the damning royal commission report on the Pike River disaster, made public on Monday, and equated New Zealand mine safety standards with those in China.

The report found the men died because of massive failings by mine management and government agencies, including in health and safety legislation and monitoring.

"You couldn't have been more wrong in this mine if you planned it. You're not a Third World country. We didn't expect it of you," Stevenson said. "You've damaged your reputation."

Creedy, a methane gas specialist, said re-entering the drift, or if possible the whole mine, had to be safe and managed properly.

The three experts were giving their time for free.

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- The Press

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