Pike River protesters on West Coast plea to those sealing the mine: 'Down tools'

By NZ Herald, Laura Mills -
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Pike River families, including Anna Osborne, left, and Sonya Rockhouse, centre, stage a protest against sealing the mine last week. Photo / Barry Uddstrom
Pike River families, including Anna Osborne, left, and Sonya Rockhouse, centre, stage a protest against sealing the mine last week. Photo / Barry Uddstrom

Protesters were again moved off the Pike River Mine access road this morning, while some family members appealed to the conscience of the contractors tasked with sealing the mine, to down tools.

Sonya Rockhouse, whose son Benjamin, 21, died in the mine, and Anna Osborne, who lost her husband Milton, 54, have asked contractors to walk away from the job.

Others have joined them on-line, naming contractors and asking them to say 'no'.

"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,'' Rockhouse and Osborne said.

After abandoning their own blockade on the access road last week, the pair mounted a legal bid but so far that has not stopped work on the seal going ahead today.

It has also been revealed the second and final seal has to be installed by February.

Solid Energy staff were on site this morning, though protesters have not yet spotted a concrete truck.

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

"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 20 other Pike families feel the same way.''

Tommy Daly, who lost his friend Milton Osborne in the 2010 mining disaster, picked up the mantle and was on site at 5.30am with a small group from their hometown of Ngahere.

When police asked them to get off the road this morning, they did.

"That time hasn't come (yet)," Daly said.

"I thought they would suspend everything until they had investigated the new stuff (information) about the drift."

Bernie Monk, a spokesman for some of the families, said this morning he understood work was ongoing around the seal 170m inside the drift, the tunnel which gives access to the mine.

Their lawyer Nigel Hampton QC advised yesterday that Solid Energy had until February to complete the second, outer seal.

Hampton told RNZ it was "one of the biggest homicide scenes I suspect in New Zealand".

Solid Energy announced yesterday that work on the first seal was resuming this week.

It was a complex and multi-step process, which had been under way for nearly two years.

It has to have the first seal completed by the end of this month to meet a Work Safe NZ deadline.

Allied Concrete regional office did not return calls this morning.

- Greymouth Star

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