Key met with the families yesterday during a lunch break of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the mine disaster and told them a mining licence for the mine would not be granted until the bodies were recovered.
Family lawyer Colin Smith told the New Zealand Herald the families were pleased with Key’s commitment.
"They were heard by Mr Key and satisfied that the prime minister understood the issues they were facing,” Smith was reported as saying.
After the meeting, Key told reporters he was “totally committed” to recovering the bodies but safety was the number one priority.
"It is an issue of safety and a credible re-entry plan,” Key told Radio New Zealand.
“What I gave the families was an absolute reassurance that the government remains totally committed to the recovery, that we wouldn't just let a purchaser come in and ignore that issue.”
Earlier in the day family spokesman Bernie Monk had told TV ONE that the families wanted a definite commitment from the government to bring the bodies of the miners back.
“The government has always said that they would come back and help us. Well now is the time, we are asking for that help,” he said.
Monk said he believed New Zealand Mines Rescue’s plan to walk into the drift of the mine was reasonable.
“The reason why we want the walk up the drift is we have a feeling …it was the end of shift and I think they were on the way out and that’s where a lot of the bodies will be,” he said.
More than ten months on from the explosion, the bodies have still not been recovered.
A proposal for a reconnaissance walk into the mine was recently dismissed by Pike River mine statutory manager Stephen Ellis.