"Today’s milestone belongs to the families" - Pike River Mine re-entered

By Jessica Tyson
Dinghy Pattinson, Sonya Rockhouse, Karl Maddaford and Anna Osborne before re-entry. Photo source: Stand With Pike Families Reference Group

A recovery team has gained re-entry into the Pike River Mine today. The milestone was watched in private by families of the 29 men who died in the 2010 tragedy.

Experts from Te Kāhui Whakamana Rua Tekau mā Iwa, Pike River Recovery Agency, completed breaching the 30m seal and entered the Pike River Mine drift.

It comes after the families of the dead waged an eight-year battle to gain re-entry to the drift- despite being told numerous times by the previous government that it was too dangerous.

Pike River Family Reference Group member Anna Osborne lost her husband to the mine explosion in 2010.  She says the opening of the drift was an intense moment.

“Watching those doors open and seeing the light enter that dark tunnel for the first time in years was incredibly emotional.  We’ve known we are going back in for a year now, today it feels like it.  This is the start of a journey that will end with truth and justice.”

Minister responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little says, “Today’s milestone belongs to the families and to the memory of their men. It also belongs to all New Zealanders, who know that going home to your loved ones is the least you should expect after a day’s work."

He says the tragedy that took the men’s lives was the consequence of "corporate and regulatory failure".

“Fulfilling the promise to do everything possible to safely re-enter is an act of justice for families who have waited for far too long.  It is because of the families’ tireless efforts that future mining tragedies might be prevented.”

Photo source: Stand With Pike Families Reference Group

A further re-entry into the drift is expected to take place at a later date.

“There is still much to do.  We must find out what happened at Pike River, however long that takes.  The recovery project will be done professionally,” says Little.

After the initial re-entry today, re-entry and recovery will be carried out by three Agency teams. 

The first team of up to six miners, including mine officials, would enter the mine drift (access tunnel), assessing the state of the drift in relation to ventilation, geotech and any other hazards that may exist that will need to be fixed.

They will also have a preliminary scan for any forensic evidence, before going back out of the portal to report their findings to mine officials and police.