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Pike River bodies unlikely to be recovered

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New Zealand News | Friday May 11 2012 5:15

Pike River bodies unlikely to be recovered


A blow for the families of those lost in the Pike River mine, with Solid Energy making it clear the chance of recovering the men's bodies is small.

The state owned enterprise has confirmed it's bought the mine for $7.5 million, and a further $25 million when it starts mining.

Chief Executive Don Elder says there are no easy answers to questions about body recovery.

"Any body recovery opportunity in the future will have to be tied with a credible mining operation, and the probability of that given what we know at this stage is at very best some years off into the future, and at the same time is probably relatively low."

Mr Elder says one of the options they're looking at is to open a completely new mine, next to the existing one.

"That new underground mine might well go somewhere near the old mine, and near enough that it can be used as access to carry out some body recovery options, if that's feasible and safe."

There's talk of unrest if the new owners of the mine resume mining, without recovering the remains of the 29 men who died there.

Families spokesman Bernie Monk says they had high hopes Solid Energy had a recovery plan in place.

"If they're going to reopen the mine and not go and get the bodies, I think there'll be an upheaval on that, I don't think the families will accept that.

"If they're going to work around these guys and not bother about going into it, a lot of them have said they just don't except that. I can understand that, you know. They thought it was an open and shut deal but it hasn't worked out that way."

Families lawyer Nicolas Davison says the news has come as a shock, as they've been pushing for a stand-alone entry for many months.

"We've been like supplicants at the table for information about the very things he was talking about last night. We haven't been taken into the confidence of people who've been talking about these technical issues, and so hearing it last night was different to what we understood, through our own technical advisors."

Mr Davison says they thought the sale of the mine would be the key to the recovery - but they left bitterly disappointed.

"He was very emphatic about the fact that stand alone recovery is simply not possible, as being too unsafe. Whether it's a ventilated or an unventilated entry. So that was a tremendous blow to the families on both fronts."

Conditions attached to the recovery of Pike River mining disaster victims aren't impressing the Green Party.

Green MP Kevin Hague says the qualifier that body recovery be financially credible is particularly concerning.

"Because it actually suggests that it's a commercial imperative, and of course what's financially credible for Solid Energy, a company that's operating with a commercial interest, is going to be very different from the test that a government might apply."

Mr Hague believes that doesn't match what the Prime Minister promised, that the Government would do all it could to recover the bodies.

"He said that at the Pike River memorial and several occasions in other contexts. The fact is that recovery of these bodies should always have been government responsibility."

Kevin Hague says the Pike River families have been seriously let down and created the dangerous prospects the bodies of the victims will never be recovered.

Photo: Pike River mine, days after the explosion (Getty Images)

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