The Prime Minister has met with the Pike River Mine families today, saying he acknowledges their loss and suffering.
“The families want to recover their loved ones and ensure such a disaster never happens again and I accept they want to take every possible step to achieve this,” Mr English says.
“No matter how we try and achieve this, we must adhere to the improved workplace health and safety laws we passed in the aftermath of the Pike River Mine tragedy.
“This decision is not about politics, it is about safety. We lost 29 lives in that mine and I will not risk losing any more.
“On that, there is common ground. The families’ spokespeople, their experts and Solid Energy all agree that the mine would have to be made safe before an entry could occur.
“The families’ proposal for entry, made public in December, does not include a detailed plan, and therefore does not make the case for a safe re-entry.
“Any decision to re-enter would also have to be made in accordance with our current workplace safety law, so the new directors would still have to take responsibility without indemnity for all aspects of safely entering the mine. It’s highly unlikely a new set of directors would decide it could be done safely.
“No one wants to lose more lives in what is one of the most dangerous environments in New Zealand. However, the Government and the families need to find a way forward.
“So we will request that Solid Energy halt work on the mine’s permanent seal and explore options for an unmanned entry.
“Robots have been tried in the past but the technology has failed. However in recent weeks the Government has been approached by experts with new proposals for unmanned access.
“The families’ technical advisor agreed that there has been significant advancements in technology since the tragedy occurred six years ago.
“We will ask Solid Energy to explore those options. We will also keep the families informed and allow their technical input into the search for options for unmanned entry.
“These unmanned options could provide a way forward by getting the additional information the families want, while not putting any further lives at risk.
“The Government will make funding available to Solid Energy to undertake this work.”