Get in or get out, Pike receivers told

Flames pouring from a damaged ventilation shaft at Pike River coal mine after several explosions. Photo / Pool
Flames pouring from a damaged ventilation shaft at Pike River coal mine after several explosions. Photo / Pool

The receivers of the collapsed Pike River coalmine have been warned to get in and get the dead miners' remains, or stand aside so someone else can.

On the eve of a preliminary hearing into the disaster, Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said the families of the 29 men who died in the November 19 disaster were "totally fed up" with delays in entering the mine.

"It's time to get on with it or get out," Mr Kokshoorn told AAP today.

"Everybody feels that they've had their chance. They know the mine is not explosive now so they've got to get in there or let another company do it instead."

It is believed that the men died within minutes of the violent blast that erupted in the mine more than four months ago.

Since then, death certificates have been issued and compensation pay-outs of up to $200,000 have been made to each family, but no one has yet entered the mine to recover the miners' remains.

All efforts to enter, including the deployment of robots, have so far failed, with receivers from PricewaterhouseCoopers now considering drilling another borehole to gauge the rockfall in the mine.

The receivers maintain that the safety risk remains so steps to enter must be carefully considered, but Mr Kokshoorn said it was time "more definitive action" was taken.

Another company, Solid Energy, was prepared to recover the men, he said.

"The receivers have tried every trick in the book, including putting in five robots that have all broken down.

"There's a point where you've got to walk the talk and they've reached it."

The mayor said the delays were causing tension in the tight-knit South Island community of Greymouth, and the families in particular were "extremely frustrated".

"There are a few that are content to leave their boys down there but the bulk, they'll take a buckle or a tooth, anything. They can't have closure until then."

Spokesman for the families, Bernie Monk, who lost his son Michael in the tragedy, agreed the delays were taking a toll on the miners' loved ones.

Meanwhile, he said families have welcomed news that a Royal Commission on the disaster will get under way in late May. It is expected to conclude in November, with findings to include safety aspects of the mine and an autopsy of the search and rescue operation.

A preliminary hearing for the inquiry is set for April 5, with many families expected to attend.

"We'll all be there. We need to feel part of some sort of progress towards a conclusion," Mr Monk said.

- AAP

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