WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s government said on Wednesday it was planning to re-enter the shuttered Pike River coal mine to try to recover the remains of 29 men who died there eight years ago in one of the country’s worse industrial disasters.
The minister responsible, Andrew Little, said in a statement that he had considered experts’ advice and committed to a plan to enter the mine around February to further investigate the causes of the accident and recover any remains.
“The process we’ve gone through to plan a safe re-entry has been extensive and robust,” Little said. “It is now our intention to get this job done, and try and find out why those 29 men went to work on 19 November 2010, and never came home.”
A series of explosions ignited by methane ripped through the mine on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, trapping 31 men, only two of whom managed to escape.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had promised while in opposition the previous year that her Labour Party would try to enter the mine if it became the government, but later warned it might prove too dangerous.
The previous National Government had ruled out re-entering the mine due to safety concerns, a stance that had been opposed by many family members of the men who died.
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Richard Balmforth)