The families of the Pike River miners and contractors have had enough of broken promises, says Bernie Monk, spokesman for the Families Committee.“The day of the disaster we were told that we would get our men back but in the last five months we’d heard nothing but excuses and let downs. We’ve had to stop living on hope but will continue to fight every obstacle to make sure we bring them home.”
Monk, whose son Michael was a contractor killed at the mine, says that the 29 men “worked their guts out” for Pike River Coal, so for the company to shut up shop, go into receivership and walk away from them is devastating.
“It’s important they get in to retrieve our men but also to uncover the truth about what really happened down there. I can’t see any reason why they’re not making an attempt.”
The families are still waiting for a clear statement from Mines Rescue as to when they might enter the mine after hearing from several sources they could “go in”.
Monk says that the families have stuck together over the difficult last five months and continue to have weekly meetings.“The meetings keep us focused on where we’re heading and are an important part of the healing process.”
Overseas family members are also kept in the loop through regular emails, he says.
There was an “emotional meeting” between the families and three commissioners at the start of the Royal Commission of Inquiry hearings in Greymouth last month in whom the families have expressed their faith, says Monk.
“A number of the families came up afterwards and said we’re in good hands, that the commissioners are genuine people who will find the answers. We also have a very good legal team led by Nicholas Davison who is working hard to ensure the families will be heard and the truth will be found.”
Monk says that the families wouldn’t stand in the way of the mine re-opening as long as any new owner made it a priority to retrieve the deceased.
“I’m worried that the receivers will sell to the company that puts up the best price and our men won’t come into it. But I personally believe that whoever buys that mine better beware that they’re going to have a fight on their hands if they try to reopen it without getting the men out.”
He would like to see the mine operating again as a memorial to the 29 men and to boost the West Coast economy that has been severely affected by the mine closure.
“Greymouth is starting to hurt. It’s going to be a lean, mean winter for a lot of people. Mining is in our blood and always will be so it would be good to see the mine get going again.”
The main proviso would be that the truth comes out to ensure that nothing like the Pike River disaster happens on the West Coast again, he says.
“My son was a contractor and didn’t have to go down the mine to earn a living. He was only going to work there until April then he was going overseas. I’m just gutted about what’s happened. His life is gone and so many lives including my own families’ have been destroyed. I have gone through many emotions, from sorrow and heartache and now to anger. I wouldn’t want someone else to go through this in the future because the truth about what happened at Pike River was swept under the carpet.”