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Solid Energy regains road access to Pike

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 17/12/2016

State-owned coal miner Solid Energy has the upper hand in the battle over access to the West Coast mine where the bodies of 29 men lie.

The families of the dead men have been blockading the mine road and last weekend said a farmer had gifted them control of land part of road is on, bolstering their cause.

Solid Energy released a statement on Saturday saying it's been in discussions with the landowner all week and he has now told the protesters they do not have the legal right to occupy the land.

It is understood the protesters will now remove the gates they erected to block Solid Energy's access, a spokesman for Solid Energy says.

The men died after an explosion in the mine, then controlled by listed company Pike Rover Coal Ltd, in 2010 but their bodies have never been recovered.

Solid Energy has been working on sealing the mine permanently but the families have presented a plan for the drift, or tunnel to the mine proper, to be entered.

A spokesman for the Pike families said Solid Energy had managed to take the road back by registering easements over the land that were previously unregistered.

Solid Energy says it has, and always has had, the access rights to the Pike River Mine it acquired from Pike River Coal Ltd.

The families came to Wellington last week where they met many politicians but new Prime Minister Bill English was too busy.

Mr English's office has offered to meet the families on Monday but the families say on Facebook their fundraising money is nearly gone, and there's not enough time to ask for more.

"We've told Bill English's office that we will fundraise again and come back in January, and in the meantime hope they get cracking on a plan to actually do something about the Pike River re-entry so we have something real to talk about when we get there.

"Or better still, we'd like to invite Bill English down to come sit with us on the Pike River road and have a proper talk about it."

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