It is looking less likely that any re-entry to the Pike River mine drift will happen before Christmas, Pike River Re-entry Minister Andrew Little says.
Little today received a report from the Pike River Recovery Agency following nine months of work which has identified three "safe and feasible" options to go into the drift.
He said the explosion at Pike River Mine on November 19, 2010, had been a national tragedy.
"Today we are one step closer to, finally, bringing closure to the families."
The families of the 29 men killed in the disaster have been fighting for re-entry in the hope the remains of their loved ones can be recovered from the mine.
Little told the Herald today he would make a final decision on whether it was even feasible to re-enter the drift after reading the report and receiving advice from independent ministerial adviser Rob Fyfe.
Little told a parliamentary committee in June it was possible re-entry could be started by the end of this year but today he pulled back from that.
"I understand that is looking less likely now and it would be the early part of next year," he said.
But he would give a better timeline on the operation to breach the seal if and when he announced a decision to go in.
"When they've had the various experts, including the families' experts, come together, the conclusion of each of those sessions is that this is feasible. But I've got to be satisfied," Little said.
Workshops had included technical experts and agencies including Police, Mines Rescue, WorkSafe and the Department of Conservation.
"The Pike River Families and their representatives have been also included at every stage. The families have shown extraordinary patience and tenacity, and their contribution has been crucial," Little said.
Little has also yet to ask Cabinet to ask for $10-15 million on top of the up to $23m already budgeted for the recovery.
The agency identified three safe and feasible re-entry options to recover the drift:
• Drive a small tunnel to create a ventilation circuit
• Single entry, using the existing main drift access tunnel as the sole means to ventilate the main drift
• Single entry with a large-diameter borehole
"I want to acknowledge the work of the Pike River Recovery Agency in getting us to this point. Safety of everyone is fundamental for re-entry, as is the care needed to forensically examine what happened at Pike River to ensure it never happens again," Little said.