WELLINGTON, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little said on Wednesday the Pike River mine drift will be re-entered when it marks the 8th anniversary of a major mine accident.
"Re-entry to the Pike River drift is 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.
A methane explosion occurred in the mine in the West Coast region of New Zealand's South Island on Nov. 19, 2010, claiming 29 lives, with their bodies yet to be recovered.
The incident ranks as New Zealand's worst mining disaster since 1914, when 43 men died in another mine accident.
Next Monday is the 8th anniversary of the dreadful tragedy at Pike River Coal Mine, said Little who is also the minister of justice, adding they will use the existing access tunnel which is "the simplest and safest plan."
The minister said thay have considered the re-entry recommendations, risk assessments and information provided by experts from around the world, who have spent months examining details of all the risks pertaining to each option.
"Safety has been our paramount concern throughout this planning process, and supported wholeheartedly by the Pike River families," he added.
Work to prepare the mine drift for re-entry is underway, and includes venting methane from the mine, pumping nitrogen into the mine, and then filling the drift with fresh air. Additional boreholes have to be drilled and this work will get under way immediately, according to the minister.
"It is likely to be around February before the re-entry proper gets underway, by breaching the 30-meter seal," he said.