Reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Pike families' desperate plea: This seal is slamming the coffin lid shut on our men

Families of the 29 men killed in the Pike River Mine disaster six years ago, object to the mine being permanently sealed off. Photo/Mark Mitchell
Families of the 29 men killed in the Pike River Mine disaster six years ago, object to the mine being permanently sealed off. Photo/Mark Mitchell

Two women opposing the permanent sealing of the Pike River mine have made a desperate plea to contractors tasked with the job.

Sonya Rockhouse, whose son Benjamin, 21, died in the mine, and Anna Osborne, who lost her husband Milton, 54, in a disaster that shocked the country, have asked contractors to down tools.

"We feel that this seal is slamming the coffin lid shut on our men, too soon. Before the facts have been properly explored. Before justice has been done. Before we've had a fair chance to bring them home."

The permanent sealing of Pike River is set to begin today, six years after 29 men were killed in a series of explosions in the West Coast coal mine.

But many families of victims, including Rockhouse and Osborne are opposed to the work being done, as they believe exploration into an area of the mine will answer questions about what caused the horrific disaster.

"We feel that this seal is slamming the coffin lid shut on our men, too soon. Before the facts have been properly explored. Before justice has been done. Before we've had a fair chance to bring them home."

"We would like to ask you all, please, to down tools and walk away from this project," the women wrote on Facebook today.

"Today I'd like to speak with the workers and contractors who are due to resume working on the seal today.

"Look guys, we want you to know that we're not angry with you. We know you took this work in good faith, and we definitely understand that things are tight on the Coast at the moment.

"We know when you did that you didn't understand how the families felt. We didn't do a good job of explaining it clearly before. That's on us."


"But by now you do know, and you've probably also heard that at least twenty other Pike families feel the same way."

Pike families say Prime Minister John Key promised them that everything possible would be done to bring the men home.

"I think we all know that this hasn't happened yet. And I think we all know that, realistically, a 20-metre thick concrete wall in the mine would mean it will never, ever happen."

In asking contractors to stop work on the seal, the women acknowledged it would be a personal sacrifice.

They said they regretted asking, but said it was "the right thing to do."

- NZ Herald

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