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'Major milestone' reached in Pike River Mine recovery operation

A "major milestone" has been reached in the on-going Pike River Mine recovery operation on the West Coast.

Loader recovered from Pike River Mine in early August, 2020. Source: Supplied

According to Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little, the critical area for forensic examination known as Pit Bottom in Stone has been reached.

“The infrastructure located in Pit Bottom in Stone is of very significant interest in determining why 29 men went to work on 19 November 2010 and never came home,” Little said.

There is a lot of work to be done now the Pit Bottom in Stone roadways have been reached.

The Government outlined the next steps:

- A hazard assessment, inspection and initial forensic scan will be carried out of all the PBIS roadways

- Any necessary work to manage identified hazards will be done

- The roadway entrances off the side of the drift will then be barricaded off to prevent entry except for required statutory inspections

- Recovery of the drift will continue up to the existing Rocsil plug at 2,240 metres. This section of about 360 metres will require extensive re-support work and the removal of a debris field so it could take up to 2 months (assuming no unexpected conditions that are not currently known)

- A rated ventilation control device (VCD) will be constructed on the mine portal/entrance side of the Rocsil plug which is very close to the large roof fall at the end of the drift

- Once this has been done all of the Pit Bottom in Stone roadways will be fully recovered and detailed forensic examination of the various items of interest there will be carried out

“Undertaking forensics on this area is going to require some additional expert guidance as the area is being treated as a crime scene. The Pike River Recovery Agency will be working through this with the New Zealand Police,” Little said.

Family members hold balloons as the Pike River Mine is re-entered by experts. Source: Supplied

Pike River Families have welcomed the recovery milestone and hope for the best outcome.

"The families need to know that the scene examination will be done by the best experts, using the right equipment and knowledge.

“This is an absolutely critical part of the recovery and we are being very clear with police and the recovery agency that it must be a focused effort and that there needs to be transparency to ensure families can trust the outcome," chair of the Family Reference Group, Pike River widow Anna Osborne says.

Twenty nine men died after an explosion at Pike River Mine on November 19, 2010.