“I’ve decided the Te Kāhui Whakamana Rua Tekau Mā Iwa - Pike River Recovery Agency, recommended course of action to enter the drift, using the existing access tunnel, is by far the safest option,” said Andrew Little.
“I’ve been considering the re-entry recommendations, risk assessments and information provided by the Pike River Recovery Agency, along with input from independent advisor, Rob Fyfe.
“The re-entry method I have approved is the simplest and safest plan.
“The process we’ve gone through to plan a safe, re-entry has been extensive and robust. Experts from around the world have spent months examining details of all the risks pertaining to each option.
“The planned method of re-entry will be made safe through the use of controls, in line with mining standards around the world.
“This is an extraordinarily complex undertaking and we have had the benefit of advice from some of the best in the world in their field.
“Safety has been our paramount concern throughout this planning process, and supported wholeheartedly by the Pike River families.
“I want to thank the families for working alongside the Pike River Recovery Agency over the past months. And for the eight years in which they never gave up hope.
“The New Zealand Police is closely involved in the operation. With their support and advice the drift tunnel will be thoroughly examined through to the roof fall area.
“Work to prepare the mine drift for re-entry is underway, and includes venting methane from the mine, pumping nitrogen into the mine, and then filling the drift with fresh air. Additional boreholes have to be drilled and this work will get under way immediately.
“The advice I have received indicates that it is likely to be around February before the re-entry proper gets underway, by breaching the 30m seal.
“The people of New Zealand can rest assured that this re-entry plan is achievable. It is now our intention to get this job done, and try and find out why those 29 men went to work on 19 November 2010, and never came home,” Andrew Little said.
The Pike River Mine Re-entry Plan and all briefing papers provided to the Minister have been released today and are available on the Pike River Recovery Agency website – www.pikeriverrecovery.govt.nz