The new owner of the Pike River mine will be expected to make "best endeavours" to recover the remains of 29 dead workers - but for grieving families that is not enough.

The final bids are in for the West Coast coal mine, in which the workers died in explosions just over a year ago, and the mine's receivers hope to start the sale process before Christmas.

"But realistically, any settlement of any contract will not be until the first part of next year," said receiver John Fisk, of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The mine went into receivership after the tragedy.


Remote camera images have shown what may be bodies inside the mine.

Some families say they cannot move on until they have their loved ones back with them, and they intend to appoint their own project engineer to monitor progress in the recovery.

While the receivers are overseeing the initial stages of a re-entry to the mine, any recovery of remains is likely to fall on the new owner.

Mr Fisk said the receivers were looking at getting an agreement on body recovery efforts as part of the mine sale.

"We are working through the terms of that at the moment, and we will be discussing it with Government and obviously the potential purchasers," Mr Fisk said.

"It would be on the basis that, recognising that no one can guarantee that they will be able to do a body recovery exercise ... they will use best endeavours to carry that out and have a plan and a timetable for doing that, and set aside an amount of money to fund that activity."

Dean Dunbar, whose 17-year-old son Joseph died in the mine, said it would be impossible to know what sort of effort was being put into a recovery by the new owner.

"Putting your trust in a company whose sole objective is to make money ... I can only hope and pray they show compassion to do their very, very best to bring all these boys home, or as many as possible," Mr Dunbar said.


Pike families' lawyer Nicholas Davidson, QC, said "best endeavours" was a start, but further definition was needed.

Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn said "best endeavours" was "just not good enough".

"It means you can do a half-hearted crack at it, and then say you can't do it. That is what can happen."