Team to seek N.Z. miner remains

AFP-JIJI

New Zealand announced plans Tuesday to re-enter a coal mine where 29 men died in an explosion three years ago but warned there was little chance of finding any remains.

The proposal follows lobbying by families of the men killed in the blast at the Pike River colliery in November 2010 to recover the victims of New Zealand’s worst mining disaster in almost a century.

Resources Minister Simon Bridges said the government had agreed to fund a 7.2 million New Zealand dollars ($5.6 million) plan to send a recovery team more than 2 km up the mine shaft.

Bridges said a rockfall had blocked the shaft at that point and the team would not go beyond it to the coal face, where most of the bodies are believed to be located.

“Our criteria are that any re-entry into the tunnel up to the rockfall is safe, technically feasible and financially credible,” he said. “Safety is paramount.”

Bridges said the prospects of finding remains in the shaft were “slim” and it was too early to say whether the recovery team would ever be able to reach the coal face because of the volatile gases still believed to be present in the pit.