The first stage of an effort to recover the bodies of the 29 men in the Pike River Mine looks likely to receive Government funding after a "positive" meeting between experts and officials this morning.
A panel of 21 local and international experts today discussed the viability of exploring the mine’s main tunnel, where the bodies are believed to be.
Prime Minister John Key has previously promised to fund an exploration of the mine, saying that Government would bankroll a plan supported by their High Hazards Unit.
Pike River families' spokesperson Bernie Monk, who attended the meeting this morning, says the panel is very close to presenting that plan to Government officials.
“We’re not far away from reaching decisions and we’ve gone away with a couple of aspects we need to cover,” he says.
“I think it won’t be long before things start to happen positively.”
In a statement released today, the group said the panel was considering two options of entering and exploring the mine.
“The group believes that both have the potential to satisfy the criteria that they must be safe and technically feasible,” they said, “but more work is needed before a decision is made on which is preferable.”
Two experts attended the meeting in Christchurch via video. Also present were representatives from Government ministries, new mine owners Solid Energy, the High Hazards Unit, Pike River families and mining experts from across the world.
The level of expertise at the panel, which was organised by a Government liaison, impressed the families' lawyer Nick Davidson, QC.
“I thought the exchange of international experts was very valuable,” he says.
“To hear real Australian experts, real British experts liaising with New Zealand experts produced an outcome which we’ve never seen before.”
Research and discussion will continue on the two recovery options, with the panel set to meet again in around a fortnight.