Eight years after an explosion that killed 29 men, New Zealand’s government has announced it will re-enter a South Island mine to try to recover their remains.
In November 2010, two explosions tore through the Pike River Mine near Greymouth – on the West Coast – killing all but two of those inside, including Australians William Joynson, 49 and Joshua Ufer, 25.
For years, the families of some of the victims have demanded a re-entry into the coal mine to recover the remains. The idea was rejected by the mine’s owners and the previous government as too dangerous.
The minister responsible, Andrew Little, on Wednesday announced that based on expert advice, the government was confident a safe re-entry was possible.
“To the Pike River families and to New Zealand: we are returning,” he told families of victims in Wellington.
“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.”
Anna Osborne, whose husband Milton Osborne was killed in the disaster said the announcement had restored her hope.
“This is a huge step towards truth and justice for us,” she said.
An attempt at re-entry was an election pledge by New Zealand’s Labour party last year, but the actual process and its safety have been the subject of examination this year by a new authority set up during coalition government’s first days in office.
The complex and multi-staged re-entry is now scheduled to begin in February, 2019, with the mine to be resealed towards the end of the year.