Pike River body recovery unable to be sale condition

By Hayden Donnell

Receivers say lingering safety concerns means they cannot make recovering bodies a condition of sale for the Pike River mine.  Photo / Iain McGregor
Receivers say lingering safety concerns means they cannot make recovering bodies a condition of sale for the Pike River mine. Photo / Iain McGregor

Receivers say they cannot make recovering bodies a condition of sale for the Pike River mine because of lingering safety concerns.

But they have promised to make a "continuing commitment" to body recovery a factor in any mine sale.

Mines rescue workers are currently working to stabilise the Pike River mine, where 29 men have laid since an explosion on November 19.

Government sources last week said officials were looking into options for making recovering the men a legal obligation for any buyer.

A statement issued by the Pike River receivers today said they could not force potential buyers to carry out the recovery without a guarantee the operation would be safe and feasible.

"Safety is paramount. For safety reasons the receivers cannot impose a requirement on purchasers to recover the bodies. In addition, the receivers and their mine experts do not have all information at this stage to confirm if any recovery is actually feasible.

We understand the Crown endorses the receivers' view that safety is paramount."

The statement moved to calm fears the Pike River mine could be sold to a buyer who did not plan to recover the bodies inside.

It said all potential Pike River mine purchasers had accepted the sale should not impede a body recovery.

Receiver Malcolm Hollis said receivers would use commercially reasonable endeavours to secure a continuing commitment to the recovery before selling the mine.

"The receivers agree that nobody wants a sale of the mine to impede the potential recovery of the miners' bodies. Equally however, we are confident that the paramount importance of mine stabilisation and the safety of potential recovery operations is recognised and that we must all take this process one step at a time."

Legal representation for the families of the Pike River dead said they wanted to speak with any mine buyer about their intentions for a body recovery.

A statement said a "best endeavours" clause in the sale contract was not a guarantee a recovery would take place - though it was not meaningless.

"The families expect to know the response of would be purchasers, and the intent that lies behind a "best endeavours" provision."

It would be impractical for a buyer to ignore national and
international mining unions which have threatened to boycott the Pike River mine if a recovery is not carried out, the statement said.

Spokesman for the Pike River families Bernie Monk last week said a buyer who did not make a recovery attempt would struggle to find staff.

"People round here are not going to work round guys that aren't going to have a shot at getting them out.

"The people that have left the West Coast are not going to come back and work the mine if their guys are still down there."

He called on the Government to give certainty to families that a recovery will be part of the mine sale agreement.

"Legislation can be changed in the stroke of the pen to make sure its built into the contract for the sale of the mine.

"I'm confident the Government will support us."

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