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Pike families to meet with Solid Energy

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 29/11/2016 Sean Martin

Workers stroll by a bouquet of flowers for victims of mine explosion lie on the road near the Pike River mine at Greymouth, New Zealand, Tuesday, June 28, 2011. © Iain McGregor/ AP Photo Workers stroll by a bouquet of flowers for victims of mine explosion lie on the road near the Pike River mine at Greymouth, New Zealand, Tuesday, June 28, 2011. Families of the victims of the Pike River disaster are set to meet with the mine's owner for the first time since a cement company pulled out of a project to seal the site.

Amid protests, Allied Concrete last week announced it would halt supply of cement to seal the mine until a dispute about re-entering the site was resolved.

The families of the 29 men killed in the 2010 disaster say they want the miners' bodies recovered, but owner Solid Energy says the mine is full of methane and too dangerous to re-enter.

Families have been occupying the main access road to the mine for 16 days.

Anna Osborne, whose husband Milton was killed in the disaster, said the state-owned mining company would on Wednesday meet with families in Greymouth.

She said the families attending would be asking the company to reverse its decision to seal the mine without allowing people back into the access tunnel to check for bodies or evidence.

"International and local mining experts say the drift can be safely re-entered. I've personally had offers from mines rescue experts to crew it," she said.

"We're simply not going to walk away and let our loved ones and the knowledge of what happened to them be permanently sealed away."

But Solid Energy last week said the withdrawal of Allied Concrete wouldn't stop the mine being sealed by early 2017.

"The reality is that for the entire time since Solid Energy took over Pike River Mine in 2012, the drift has been full of nearly pure methane," the company said.

It said the first stage of sealing had already been completed - although it said it was "technically reversible" - and said the concrete would just complete a second stage to strengthen the seal.

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