New hope for Pike River families

THE New Zealand government may fund a re-entry of the Pike River mine to retrieve the bodies of 29 miners who died there as new owner, Solid Energy, reveals it is struggling to survive financially.
New hope for Pike River families New hope for Pike River families New hope for Pike River families New hope for Pike River families New hope for Pike River families

Pike River mine months before tragedy struck in November, 2010. Image courtesy of PRC.

Lou Caruana

Pike families will meet with representatives from the government’s High Hazards Unit, Solid Energy and Mines Rescue Trust in Christchurch today to determine whether there is a safe and technically feasible way to access the 2.3km tunnel at the Pike River mine.

New Zealand prime minister John Key responded to family requests to help find their love ones bodies and get closure on the tragedy that occurred in November 2010.

"I am concerned that unless all of the various experts are involved, there will simply be a continuation of the current divergent views and progress will continue to be slow," Key reportedly said on TVNZ.com.

Meanwhile, Solid Energy’s trading position has continued to deteriorate despite a number of initiatives to reduce costs, preserve cash and restructure the business to meet the ongoing challenging global coal market.

Solid Energy chairman Mark Ford said: “We are in discussions with our banks and Treasury on the debt and equity support required for future operations of the business.

“A restructuring and turnaround plan for the company is being prepared by the newly appointed board in support of these discussions. We believe that this plan can provide a sustainable future business to meet expected market conditions.”

Despite some modest recovery of international coal prices from a low of about $US140 per tonne in September last year - down from $224 in June and a high of $350 in January 2011 - the company expects any sustained recovery will be prolonged.

“The company is carrying substantial debt and the half-year result will record a significant loss,” Ford said.

“This coal market downturn has resulted in weak prices negatively impacting the company’s operating results for the half year.”

Ford said the company appreciated the ongoing support of Treasury and the company’s banking partners in this difficult and challenging time.

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