Prime Minister John Key today assured distraught Pike River family members that although the mine could be sold to a new owner, the mining licence would not be transferred until the 29 victims entombed inside the pit were brought home - only if a credible plan for entry and recovery was devised.
The lawyer for victims' families, Colin Smith, said the 40 or so relatives of the dead left this afternoon's meeting with Mr Key in Greymouth ``reasonably satisfied'' with the hearing.
"They were heard by Mr Key and satisfied that the Prime Minister understood the issues they were facing.''
Mr Smith said the families also told the Prime Minister they lacked confidence in the decision making of the statutory mine manager Steve Ellis, who revealed in the Royal Commission of Inquiry this week that he had vetoed a re-entry plan submitted by Mines Rescue.
"They put it to him that Mines Rescue was ready and prepared to enter the mine. (Mr Key) told them he was a politician and he could not interfere with that process.''
However, he undertook to raise their concern with Pike River Coal receiver John Fisk, of PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Although the Prime Minister was not in a position to directly alter the statutory manager's position, Mr Smith said he was sure he could ``broker'' with the right people.
Speaking outside the meeting, Mr Key told the media the issue of re-entering the mine was not a money matter.
"It is an issue of safety and a credible re-entry plan.
"It's not the money that's holding the plan back. The statutory manager and the Department of Labour have to agree that it is safe for Mines Rescue. If it is not safe and it's entered 10 more people could die, then people would be questioning again.
"It would be unfair and stupid to go in if it wasn't safe.''
Mr Key reassured the families that he was "totally committed'' to the body recovery.
He said every mine was unique: "With some mines that explode, re-entry is possible, and in others it has never been possible. We obviously hope we can and will re-enter Pike - but I have never guaranteed this.''
- APNZBy Viv Logie of the Greymouth Star