ROBERT KITCHIN / STUFF
Minister Andrew Little has announced that the government will support the re-entry of the mine.
The government has given it for the sake of clarity to re-enter Pike River Mine, to retrieve the bodies of the 29 men who died there in 2010.
While some of the dangers still remained, Little said that extensive advice had shown that re-entry using the mine's existing access tunnel would be "by far the safest option".
Minister Andrew Little made the announcement in Parliament, for some of the Pike 29 families. It was almost eight years ago that the mine exploded in a fireball of methane and other dangerous gases.
Many are still supposed to be present in the mine and at dangerous levels.
Little said that it would be an "extraordinarily complex" company, but the process of making it safe had been robust.
The Pike River Family Reference Group represents the majority of the families of the 29 men who were killed in the November 2010 disaster. The group has been involved in the return plan of the Pike River Recovery Agency.
Little has had the plan the last two weeks. The agency had proposed three options for a manned re-entry and had a budget of $ 23 million, although it said it would need more.
"Safety has been our main concern throughout this planning process and was fully supported by the families of the Pike River," said Little.
The operation also had the support of the police.
"With their support and advice, the drift tunnel will be thoroughly screened up to the roof fall area."
Work was already being done on the preparation of the mine. That included blowing off methane from the mine, pumping nitrogen into the mine and filling the drift with fresh air.
Additional drill holes would have to be drilled and that work would start immediately, Little said.
"The advice I received indicates that it will probably be around February before the re-entry starts, by breaking the 30m seal."
Those three options were to use a single datum; build a new 250 meter long tunnel that would connect to the "Pit Bottom in Stone" area for ventilation and a second escape route; or use a single entry, but add a new large borehole to provide a way to escape.
The purpose of re-entry is to recuperate all the bodies of the men who may be present in the mine and to gather some evidence of what the methane explosion might have caused. The scene would also be treated as a crime scene.
More coming soon