Twenty-six family members of the Pike 29 miners went underground to the 170m barrier today, an emotional first for many, Chief Operating Officer Dinghy Pattinson says.
“We had one of our guys accompanying each of the families who went up in the driftrunner in groups of four or five, looking after them and ensuring they were okay. Most of the family members had never been underground before, and it was a difficult journey for them emotionally. But several told me how much they appreciated the opportunity,” Mr Pattinson says.
The Pike 29 miners were tragically killed at the Pike River Mine nearly nine years ago. Te Kāhui Whakamana Rua Tekau mā Iwa – Pike River Recovery Agency was set up in January 2018 as a government department, to re-enter and recover the mine “drift” access tunnel, promote accountability for the tragedy, try and bring some closure for the families, and recover any human remains found.
Chief Executive Dave Gawn says it was important to give the families the opportunity to enter the drift now, before the Agency takes the next steps to remove the 170m barrier and advance further up towards the roof fall 2.3km up which prevents further access into the mine workings area. The mine workings is the area where the Pike 29 were believed to be working when the mine exploded on 19 November 2010.
“We have submitted all our documentation to WorkSafe for their review, and we believe we’ll soon be going into a very busy underground phase - there will most likely be no further opportunity for families to go underground. While I could see today’s event was a stretch for some people, we felt it was important for us to offer this journey as part of our commitment to families,” Dave says.