The mother of an Australian man killed in the Pike River mine disaster in New Zealand says she’s heartbroken but will accept a decision never to re-enter the underground site.
Joanne Ufer’s 25-year-old son Joshua died in the tragedy that left 29 workers entombed after a methane-fuelled explosion four years ago.
Mine owners Solid Energy announced on Thursday that despite its best efforts, it hadn’t been able to come up with a plan that would keep those involved in the recovery operation safe.
“It was heartbreaking,” Ms Ufer told the ABC on Friday.
“We’ve all worked for four years towards something that we believed was achievable and to be told, you know, that that’s it, that’s the end of the road … It doesn’t matter how much you prepare yourself, it is still hard to hear.
“If it can’t be done well, let’s just seal the mine up, make it into a memorial site and that’s their final resting place. Never to be mined again.”
Australian man William Joynson also died when the mine collapsed.
Ms Ufer’s comments come as other Pike River Families insist re-entry is possible, and say evidence from British experts shows the plan is technically feasible and can be achieved within International Safety Standards.
“It’s not where I want my husband to be,” tearful widow Anna Osborne told reporters.
“All our men deserve to be buried in a place of our choice.”
In a statement, the families acknowledged the final decision rested with Solid Energy and said they’d now focus on making the area a suitable resting place for their loved ones.
They want future mining in the area banned, the area to be given reservation status to protect the sanctity of the area, and families to be allowed unfettered access forever.
The families are also calling on the government to consider introducing a corporate manslaughter charge and review the police investigation into the disaster to see if there’s enough evidence for a criminal case.
About $A4.84 million has been spent on the re-entry project.