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Solid Energy rejects Pike safety claims

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 6/12/2016 Sean Martin
Mines Rescue staff prepare to enter Pike River mine on June 28, 2011 in Greymouth, New Zealand. © Getty Images Mines Rescue staff prepare to enter Pike River mine on June 28, 2011 in Greymouth, New Zealand.

Solid Energy, the owner of the Pike River coal mine, has again gone public to debunk what it says are misconceptions about the dangers of re-entering the mine's entrance shaft.

It has penned an open letter listing the incorrect claims made about the West Coast underground mine, where 29 men were killed in a series of explosions in November 2010.

It has rejected claims a "quick" inspection of the 2.3km drift, or entry shaft, is safe, that it is not listening to families' experts, talking to the families and acting with indecent haste.

It also labelled the idea the mine was being sealed because it had something to hide or was colluding with the government in a cover-up plot as "incorrect and farcical".

There have been protests at the mine's entrance against the moves to seal it and claims the mine's drift can be re-entered.

But Solid Energy says there is no going back on its decision in 2014 that the mine was too dangerous.

"We're not going to change our course of action simply because of the opinions of poorly informed commentators," the directors said.

"It is reckless of those who are not in possession of the full facts, and have no legal responsibility for the lives of those who would be put at risk, to claim otherwise."

The Pike River Coal company began mining operations at the site near Greymouth in 2005, but faced a number of problems with the deformed and broken coal seam.

A subsequent royal commission found the mine was poorly designed and there was little government oversight of mine safety. The company had overlooked or played down the risk of a methane explosion.

Solid Energy bought the mine in 2012 with hopes of retrieving the 29 bodies and restart mining operations but decided it was too dangerous.

The plan is to block the entrance with a specifically designed concrete seal which will be 5m thick.

It will be handed over to the Department of Conservation to be part of Paparoa National Park.

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