Solid Energy has launched a national campaign to outline why Pike River Mine cannot be re-entered and must be sealed.
The company's directors have written an open letter in today's Herald "to set the record straight" and counter a number of "inaccurate statements" about the decision to permanently close the methane-filled mine.
Protesters are blockading the mine entrance to prevent work starting on sealing the drift. They want to retrieve the bodies of the 29 men who died in the 2010 explosion and find out what went wrong six years ago.
Today's full-page letter sets out why the company remains resolute in its decision to close the West Coast mine.
It says the decision was taken on "rigorous assessment and careful consideration" and there had been no improvement in the conditions within the mine's tunnel for the past two years when re-entry was deemed too dangerous and could not be made safe.
"While we have deep sympathy for the position of the families, the directors' decision is entirely motivated by our responsibility for the safety of the site and any person entering the mine. As we said in 2014, any further loss of life in this mine is unacceptable and any possibility of other families having to go through what the Pike families have suffered is not a risk we believe should be taken," reads the letter, the paragraph highlighted in bold type.
The letter says when the company bought the mine 18 months after the men died, the directors expected the company to try to retrieve bodies and if possible re-establish a safe mining operation.
However, after a thorough assessment of the safety of re-entry the directors announced it was too dangerous and a decision was made to seal the drift and hand the mine to the Department of Conservation.
"That was a decision made on the basis of rigorous assessment and careful consideration. Nothing has changed to alter that decision. It is reckless of those who are not in possession of the full facts, and have no legal responsibility for the lives of those who would be put at risk, to claim otherwise."
The directors said their responsibility as the mine owner and operator was to now make the site safe before giving it to DOC. "A methane-filled mine, with only a partial seal, in a difficult to access, geotechnically unstable area is "unacceptable", read the letter.
The letter sets out to dispel seven of what it calls "inaccurate" and "farcical" statements circulating, which directors say "do a disservice" to the grieving families in "continuing to misrepresent the situation".
It offers counter arguments about the ease of drift inspection, denies claims the company dismissed re-entry views put forward by experts representing the families and denies a cover-up conspiracy.
The directors said out of respect for all those involved they wished to continue quietly getting on with the job of sealing the drift.
The company plans to progressively publish the letter in the major daily papers across New Zealand.