International mining experts say New Zealand's reputation has been damaged by the "horror story" highlighted in a report into the Pike River mine disaster.
Mining engineers Bob Stevenson, David Creedy and Dave Feickert are in Greymouth to provide independent advice to families of the 29 men killed in the tragedy on a plan to re-enter the mine and retrieve the bodies.
They expressed their shock at the Royal Commission findings, made public yesterday, which found the men died because of massive failings from mine management and government agencies, including in health and
safety legislation and monitoring.
Stevenson equated New Zealand mining safety standards revealed in the report with those in China.
"You couldn't have been more wrong in this mine if you planned it," Stevenson said.
"You're not a third world country. We didn't expect it of you. You've damaged your reputation."
Stevenson, Creedy and Feickert will gather information through meetings with Solid Energy, mine rescue and local experts before making their recommendation to families at the end of the week.
Families hope the drift - a shallow tunnel which leads to the blocked are of the mine - will contain the remains of some of the dead miners.
Stevenson said the sole focus was on retrieving the bodies. He said he had been involved in many mine re-entries in the past, but "not under such appalling mining standards as this".
Pike River was a situation "fraught with risk and emotion" and "it won't be a decision we make lightly", he said.
Re-entering the drift, or if possible, the whole mine, had to be safe and managed properly, Creedy said.
Bernie Monk, spokesman for some of the dead men's families, said if the three experts felt a re-entry was not feasible, "we must accept it".
However, if they approved a re-entry plan, Monk said he will go to Prime Minister John Key and ask for it to be implemented.
Monk, who lost his son Michael in the mine blast, said families had been forced to get independent advice because Key had never shared the information on which decisions not to re-enter the mine were based.
"That still saddens me, Monk said.
Feickert, a New Zealander honoured by the Chinese government in 2009 for improving mine safety, said the commission's findings were "embarrassing" for New Zealand.
Said Creedy of the report, "It read like a horror story. It [Pike River] was a litany of ongoing potential disasters."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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