The proposed re-entry of the Pike River Mine could happen as soon as February.

Pike River Re-entry Minister Andrew Little announced earlier this month the proposed timeline of the planned re-entry to the mine's drift.

In announcing the move, he said: "To the Pike River families – and New Zealand – we are returning."

Little made the comment while standing alongside representatives of the families impacted by the tragedy at the Pike River Mine; where 29 miners and contractors lost their lives when it exploded on November 19, 2010.

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Little – who was in charge of the EPMU union which covered miners at the time of the disaster - said he had carefully considered the advice of the Pike River Recovery Agency and had decided to proceed with one of three options presented for re-entry to the drift.

"On the basis of all the material I have been presented with, I am satisfied that there is now a safe plan for re-entry and recovery," he said.

He has described the plan as an "extraordinarily complex undertaking".

"This is a site which, even eight years after being the scene of multiple explosions and taking the lives of 29 men, poses major hazards. This has required incredibly robust planning," Little said.

The agency had recommended re-entering the drift via the existing entry. Cabinet has approved an additional $14 million in funding, taking the total budget for the plan to $36m.

Pike River Recovery Agency head Dave Gawn said there was still a lot of work ahead.

"Safety comes first, then operations, but we are confident we can recover the drift and get this operation completed."

Police are still in the process of completing their own risk assessment of the re-entry plan before committing staff to take part.

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