Pike River panel meet over recovery efforts
Families of the 29 men who died in the Pike River disaster are hoping to secure Government funding to explore the mine.
A panel of 18 local and international experts will meet this morning to discuss the viability of exploring the tunnel where the bodies are believed to be.
The panel represent a range of stakeholders, including representatives from new mine owners Solid Energy, Government departments, the Pike River families and the Government’s High Hazard Unit.
Families spokesman Bernie Monk says Prime Minister John Key promised to fund an exploration of the tunnel if a safe and cost-effective proposal is agreed upon.
“We’re going to put a plan together to give to Mr Key so he will leave some money for this to happen,” Mr Monk says.
“My personal opinion, I don’t see any problems. I’ve looked through it with one of my experts and there’s a couple of little issues and we’ll look at those and sort it out.”
Mr Monk says the families are wary, as they have been let down before - but he is quietly confident.
“Mines Rescue has always said this can be done. In a nutshell, I think it’s always been a financial problem to do it,” he says.
“You’ve got to realize that we’ve already entered the mine, we’ve already gone down 300 metres and then we stopped doing it - we stopped doing it because nobody had any money to carry on.”
But a go-ahead from the experts wouldn’t necessarily guarantee a full recovery, as the condition of the mine is unknown.
“We really can’t make any observations until we get down there,” Mr Monk says. “We’re not going there at this stage; all we’re concentrating on is [entering] the drift.”
Government experts have previously ruled that a recovery of the bodies would be impossible, but that claim has long been contested by the families.
Prime Minister John Key addressed concerns last year and confirmed the Government would fund an exploration of the mine - provided a safe and financially-viable plan was backed by their High Hazard unit.
Mr Monk says the panel will be a final point of call for him and the families.
“If our experts come away from this meeting and say it can’t be done, I’ll be the first to step up to the plate and say, ‘Our job is done, we’ve done as much as we can to bring these guys home’,” he says.
The meeting is expected to finish just after midday, but extra time has been allowed in case discussions run over time.