The Pike River families say they have rejected Solid Energy's proposals for staging an unmanned re-entry of the coal mine.

After meeting the families for the first time in February, Prime Minister Bill English asked the state-owned mining company to leave the West Coast mine unsealed and to investigate the use of drones or robots to re-enter the mine.

Terms of reference have now been drafted for unmanned entry after talks between the families, Solid Energy, and the Government.

But the families said they had rejected the terms because they excluded several of their key requests.


"We have been dictated to and our opinion doesn't matter," said Anna Osborne, who lost her husband Milton in the mine.

She said their requests were reasonable. They wanted a deadline for the work to be undertaken, to have their own experts on site during any operations, and to get access to any footage of the mine held by Solid Energy or police.

Acting Conservation Minister for Pike River Issues Nick Smith said the terms had been determined after talks with the families. They specifically allowed the families' advisers to comment on the final report on unmanned entry before it goes to Government, he said.

Smith did not specifically address the families' concerns about having their experts involved at all stages of the operation, or about whether the families would be granted access to images of the mine held by Government agencies.

But he said the families' representatives would be involved in the next stage of the process, in which Solid Energy would assess what technology could be used for unmanned entry.

While no deadline had been set for carrying out the re-entry, Smith said the Government wanted the work to be advanced "as quickly as practically possible".

Solid Energy had appointed a project manager, and the Government would fund the cost of re-entry if it was "assessed as feasible and safe".

Dean Dunbar, whose 17-year-old son Joseph died in the mine, said the plan now appeared to be progressing without the families' input.


"They've basically gone without our consent, without our knowledge, and they're just dictating the terms once again.

"And it's all behind closed doors, once again."

Solid Energy has been asked for comment.

The mine has not been operating since a gas explosion in 2010 killed 29 workers, whose remains have never been removed because of concerns about high methane levels.