Meeting with Solid Energy's new boss 'insulting', say Pike River families

Solid Energy'chief executive Tony King met Pike River families today to discuss the company's plans to permanently seal the mine. Above, protesters outside the mine this week. Photo / Greymouth Star
Solid Energy'chief executive Tony King met Pike River families today to discuss the company's plans to permanently seal the mine. Above, protesters outside the mine this week. Photo / Greymouth Star

Pike River families say a meeting with Solid Energy's new boss over re-entering the mine was "insulting".

Chief executive Tony King met families today to discuss the company's plans to permanently seal the mine.

The meeting followed more than two weeks of protests at Pike River calling for the company to re-enter the mine's drift to recover bodies and evidence of what had happened.

Bernie Monk, whose son Michael died in the mine, said the meeting was insulting.

"Solid Energy are refusing to even meet with any of the many experts who have said safe re-entry is possible. They're not even pretending to listen anymore. Frankly there's no point in trying to deal with this company any longer."

He said families would get the justice promised to them by Prime Minister John Key by standing at the mine's access gates or at the gates of Parliament.

 "Frankly there's no point in trying to deal with this company any longer," said Bernie Monk, whose son Michael died in the mine. Photo /  Brett Phibbs
"Frankly there's no point in trying to deal with this company any longer," said Bernie Monk, whose son Michael died in the mine. Photo / Brett Phibbs

"The Prime Minister is the one who made the promise to get our boys out, and he should front up himself rather than sending his monkeys to deliver the hard word," Monk said.

"What makes it worse is the seal already in place complies with WorkSafe's conditions. There's absolutely no need to pour 30m of concrete in there. It feels like they're just doing it because they want this whole thing to go away."

Monk said it was safe to re-enter the mine and get evidence out, "and that's what's going to happen".

Solid Energy declined to comment today.

Meanwhile, more Pike River contractors are downing tools until the dispute over re-entering the drift is over.

The move follows Allied Concrete's decision to stop supplying the concrete for the permanent seal until the matter is resolved.

Monk said other companies tasked with sealing the mine have been in contact with him.

"There've been others that have said to me they're going to stand by us so I really applaud them for doing that."

Families have been occupying the main access road to the mine for 16 days.

Flames leap from the ventilation shaft after the mining tragedy at the Pike River Mine in  November 2010. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Flames leap from the ventilation shaft after the mining tragedy at the Pike River Mine in November 2010. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Solid Energy last week said the withdrawal of Allied Concrete wouldn't stop the mine being sealed by early 2017.

"The reality is that for the entire time since Solid Energy took over Pike River Mine in 2012, the drift has been full of nearly pure methane," the company said.

It said the first stage of sealing had already been completed - although it said it was "technically reversible" - and said the concrete would just complete a second stage to strengthen the seal.

- NZ Herald

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