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Pike 29 remembered six years on

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 18/11/2016

The sixth anniversary of the Pike River mine disaster is being marked as a controversy about sealing the mine rages.

The 29 workers killed in the explosion at the mine near Greymouth on November 19, 2010 are being remembered at events on Saturday.

There's an annual memorial motorcycle run that converges on the former West Coast mining township of Blackball and a memorial service in Blackball at 6pm on Saturday.

Labour leader Andrew Little has a meeting with families at the mine site in the morning and is attending the memorial service.

The families of the dead men suspended an occupation on the mine road this week after Monday's earthquake but remain angry the mine is being permanently sealed.

State-owned Solid Energy, which took over the mine from the private operator, has suspended work on the seal for a week due to sensitivities at the time of the anniversary.

Environment Minister Nick Smith this week expressed doubt at claims the mine can be safely re-entered.

He says the mine is full of methane and is likely to have residual heat sources capable of triggering an explosion if there was a source of oxygen. There is the added risk of rockfalls.

"I do appreciate the huge loss families have faced with the loss of loved ones at Pike, and the added pain of not being able to recover their men. However, you cannot justify putting further lives at risk," Dr Smith says.

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