PRIME Minister John Key and the Government will take another look at whether it can help retrieve the bodies of the 29 men killed in the 2010 Pike River mine explosion.
During a visit to the West Coast, Mr Key had an hour long meeting with Bernie Monk, spokesman for most Pike River families, to discuss the tragedy at the underground coal mine.
Following the meeting he told The Press newspaper he would talk to his advisers about a potential recovery plan mooted by the families, but did not guarantee any help.
He had been told by experts previously it would be very dangerous to attempt a recovery.
”We will go away and assess that proposal and I wish I could click my fingers and get someone to tell me we could do this easily and simply and safely but all I can tell you genuinely is that the advice we’ve had doesn’t add up to that,” Mr Key said.
”We can’t put at risk the lives of other people going into the mine unless we’re absolutely sure that that’s a safe thing to do.”
He thought the mine’s sale to Solid Energy gave the best chance of recovery.
Mr Key acknowledged that the families were frustrated.
”The fundamental issue is whether it is safe to go into the mine.”
Any recovery mission could potentially coast hundreds of millions of dollars.
Mr Monk said he was “gutted” with Mr Key’s response and thought he misunderstood the families’ desire to mount an exploration of the mine’s tunnel up to about 2.1km, where a rockfall was believed to block access to its working section.
”His experts say it can’t be done.”
Solid Energy chief executive Dr Don Elder told Monk yesterday the families could mount their own retrieval effort if they could muster enough miners to do it and it passed safety requirements.
That prospect would be discussed further with mining experts hired by the families, Monk said.
Solid Energy confirmed it would give Monk and his team access to the Pike River site, tunnel, and it’s information to help them develop and implement a recovery plan, provided it was deemed credible and safe.
”The company is yet to discuss what this arrangement might mean in practical terms, for example, what access he would need to the mine site and buildings.”
A team of experts was working over the next six to eight weeks to complete a review of re-entry options.
By end of November, it expected to have identified preferred conceptual options for internal and external review by an experts’ group and by the high hazards unit of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.
”Subject to their endorsement, the company would expect to develop a detailed plan for final approval by mid-2013, with entry work starting thereafter.”