Pike River: 'Life still has to be lived'

By Laura Mills of the Greymouth Star

Photo / File
Photo / File

Three years to the day from the Pike River Mine anniversary, a widow from the Strongman Mine disaster 46 years ago has offered words of comfort to the families of the 29 victims who still lie under the mountain at Pike River.

Greymouth was quiet and reflective this morning as most families observed the anniversary in private.

Alice Noble, who lost her husband in the 1967 Strongman disaster, said the hurt was still there.

"Life still has to be lived. But it never completely goes away,'' Mrs Noble said.

Some families were visiting the mine site today, and a public community memorial service will be held this evening at the Blackball Museum, where family members in attendance will be given white roses to pin on each of the 29 names on the memorial wheel.

The Grey District Council was to observe one minute's silence at 3.44pm, the time of the explosion on November 19, 2010.

At the mine site, 40km north of Greymouth, preparations were continuing today for an attempted re-entry next year.

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said the hurt of the mining disaster was still raw.

``You hear everywhere that people do want to move on, but it's not that simple. The men are still up there.''

The families also face yet another year of litigation. Former mine manager and chief executive Peter Whittall is expected to go on trial early next year, in Wellington.

Some families are also still considering a private prosecution.

Each day, at the mine, preparations progress for a possible re-entry, with the hope eventually to get deep into the mine to retrieve the bodies and perhaps establish what caused the fatalities.

Mr Kokshoorn said he felt the ongoing impact of the tragedy had ``bottomed out''. Greymouth not only lost 29 men three years ago, it also lost 150 jobs, followed by 400 more jobs with the subsequent closure of the Spring Creek Mine.

In Australia, the Pike River disaster has not been forgotten either, and the Australian miners' union, the CFMEU, was sending two representatives to the Blackball commemoration this evening.

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union assistant national secretary Ged O'Connell said they had come a long way since the disaster.

"Efforts are now under way to re-enter the mine, and the Government is fully implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission to make miners safer. It is, however, a sad day of mourning for the families of the men who never came home.''

- APNZ

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