Lawyers

Pike River mine to be lastly sealed after households drop authorized motion

Pike River families have aborted legal action to fight the Government’s decision to seal the West Coast coal mine.

A group of 22 family members had filed a judicial review in July because they did not want the mine sealed until evidence was recovered from the main ventilation fan, which sits 130 metres further into the mine workings.

The Pike River Recovery Agency is planning to hand the site over to the Department of Conservation (DOC) for inclusion in the Paparoa National Park by November.

It has completed a $50 million re-entry of the mine’s access tunnel, or drift, with the aim of recovering evidence to help a police criminal investigation into the disaster that killed 29 men in 2010.

READ MORE:
* Pike River families launch court action against sealing of the mine
* Andrew Little rejects Pike River families’ plan to recover more evidence
* Pike River families asked to choose between two factions

Families lawyer Paddy Brand, and Bernie Monk at the Wellington High Court filing for a judicial review.

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff

Families lawyer Paddy Brand, and Bernie Monk at the Wellington High Court filing for a judicial review.

The matter has now been settled before a hearing that was due to be held on September 20.

Pike River father Bernie Monk, Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little, and the attorney-general released a joint statement saying the parties had agreed to fully and finally settle the proceeding.

The statement said the project to recover the mine drift was part of a quest for justice for the 29 men killed in the mine.

“Although there was no commitment made to go beyond the drift, Minister Little agreed that he would report to Cabinet on whether any further work to assess the feasibility of re-entering the mine workings should be undertaken once the process of recovering the drift was well advanced.”

The agency made an agreement with the Pike River Family Reference Group to only initiate contact with families through the Family Reference Group, but would accept requests or queries from any family at any time.

Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little accepts he caused hurt by not communicating with all Pike River families.

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff

Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little accepts he caused hurt by not communicating with all Pike River families.

Little told the Family Reference Group in 2019 it was unlikely that recovery would go beyond the drift and further funding would be required to complete the drift recovery.

“The minister now accepts that the families who were not represented by the Family Reference Group were not advised and were not included in this communication,” the joint statement said.

Little did not intend to ask Cabinet to explore the mine workings given the amount of time and money spent on the drift re-entry, recovery and examination.

“The minister accepts that his decision not to explore the feasibility of re-entering the mine workings should have been communicated to all Pike River Family members before it was presented to Cabinet. The minister accepts this caused hurt to several family members.”

The statement said the families and the Government remained committed to finding out what happened at Pike River and “to promote accountability”.

Both the minister and the families supported police’s ongoing criminal investigation.

Pike River father Bernie Monk has been unwavering in his fight for truth and justice into the tragedy.

Joanne Naish/Stuff

Pike River father Bernie Monk has been unwavering in his fight for truth and justice into the tragedy.

Police would look into the mine workings by putting cameras down several boreholes.

In an update to families, the Pike River Recovery Agency said it had completed a lot of work during the Covid-19 lockdown on handing the site over to DOC.

The mine had already been sealed at 170m, and further tests were being done this week.

The agency would seal the mine again at the 30m point and rehabilitate the site before handover.

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