Pike River splinter group launches protest

By Laura Mills, Viv Logie of the Greymouth Star

Anna Osborne, whose husband Milton was killed in the Pike River mine explosion and Tom Daly, a close friend of Milton's, put up a sign on the Cobden Bridge. Photo / Greymouth Star
Anna Osborne, whose husband Milton was killed in the Pike River mine explosion and Tom Daly, a close friend of Milton's, put up a sign on the Cobden Bridge. Photo / Greymouth Star

A small group of Pike River families have hung a large banner from the Cobden Bridge as they launched their own protest over the lack of progress in recovering their loved ones' bodies.

Anna Osborne, whose husband Milton died in the mine explosion 16 months ago, is infuriated by the lack of progress.

Mrs Osborne said the sign on the bridge and another outside National Party MP Chris Auchinvole's office were part of a quiet protest that was the "start of things to come".

"I'm speaking out, out of sheer frustration with the lack of progress to bring our men home.

"Sixteen months is way too long and we are back to square one; I don't believe a lot of progress has been made."

Sher said the families had been told to be dignified and say nothing but she felt stuck between a rock and a hard place.

"I don't want to jeopardise the recovery by speaking but it is about time something is done."

She said Milton did not like working at Pike.

"He was not a miner. We need to bring him home; we need that as a family for closure."

Steve Rose, who lost son Stuart Mudge in the disaster, said today that he was also keen to see things moving.

Sixteen months down the track, and people were talking about reclaiming the main tunnel, not recovering the bodies.

Mr Rose said that he understood that due process had to be followed.

"However it's taking too long. The Government have wiped their hands of it, the receivers have on-sold the mine and the problem is still there.

"Body recovery is just a side shoot and we always get some sort of spin as to what's happening. We want people to focus on getting our men back and we will not rest until the bodies are in boxes in front of us."

Mr Rose said West Coasters were doers; they liked to get things done.

"What a bummer it has been, no one has been able to do anything; everyone is hamstrung. We are here and we are sick of waiting."

Attempts to contact the families' appointed spokesman, Bernie Monk, were unsuccessful this morning.

Mines Rescue has explained why it cannot just drill down from the surface, bypassing the large rockfall between the portal and the 29 dead.

That was what happened in the Chile gold mine rescue six weeks before the Pike disaster, when 33 men were brought out alive.

Mines Rescue manager Trevor Watts said that at the shallowest point, it was 110m (360ft) from the surface to the coal tunnels below.

"We couldn't drill a hole large enough for us to get down with breathing apparatus.

"People are still talking about Chile, but it was a 600mm diameter cage. Some of our miners are pretty big guys, they wouldn't fit.

"And they didn't have breathing apparatus."

Mr Watts said the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the disaster was expected to rule that every mine needed a proper second escape way.

Pike River statutory mine manager Steve Ellis said it would simply not be safe to lower men into a mine, with the potential for explosion, and only one way in and out.

The Department of Labour would never allow a rescue bid under these circumstances.

He said a hole larger than the Chile one could be drilled, but the cost started rising sharply.

"It would cost millions and millions."

The current plan is to seal the area in front of the rockfall.

Once the mine sells; Solid Energy is currently doing due diligence; there is talk about tunnelling around the rockfall, and installing a second escape tunnel.

- Greymouth Star

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