Families of the men who died in the Pyke River mine have been given some hope that the bodies will be recovered.
The Government has approved conditional funding of a staged plan to re-enter and explore the main tunnel leading up to the rock fall at the Pike River Coal Mine, Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges has announced.
The decision follows approval in principle of the re-entry plan risk assessment by the Solid Energy Board.
Mr Bridges said the Government will fund the estimated cost of the plan, at $7.2 million.
“Our criteria are that any re-entry into the tunnel up to the rock fall is safe, technically feasible and financially credible. Safety is paramount, and the High Hazards Unit of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has reviewed the plan and is comfortable with it,” said Mr Bridges.
“This is a highly complex and technical operation and it will be carefully managed in stages, with a risk assessment undertaken at each stage. Ensuring the safety of workers is an absolute bottom line for the Government and Solid Energy.”
Mr Bridges said the scope of the operation did not include entry into the main mine workings which is blocked by the rock fall.
“The Government cannot comment or speculate about re-entering the main mine until the tunnel re-entry has been successfully achieved,” Mr Bridges said.
Some of the families might have accepted that body recovery is unlikely, others haven’t and that will be an obstacle in the grieving process.
This is a first step which will give families hope but it gives no certainty.
Awful as the waiting and wondering must be for the relatives and friends of the men who died, the safety and lives of rescuers must take precedence over the recovery of bodies.