More than a decade after the explosion that trapped and killed 29 men, human remains have been recovered at the site of one of New Zealand’s worst mining catastrophes.
After specialized cameras were fed into the Pike River coal mine through boreholes, the remains of two individuals were identified, police said in a statement released in Christchurch. The images could also suggest a third body, but authorities say they won’t be able to recover it because it’s in the mine’s deepest reaches.
At this point we have been unable to identify the remains, however we will consult with forensic experts, Detective Superintendent Peter Read said. Based on our investigation we believe there were six to eight men working in the area where the remains have been located.
The men died after a blast at the mine at Greymouth on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island on November 19, 2010. Two years later, a Royal Commission determined that a large amount of methane gas, which is naturally found in coal, was the initial cause of the explosion, while the source of ignition was unknown.
The workers were trapped and likely died in the first explosion, according to the Commission, and attempts to reach them were blocked by explosives over the next five days. None of their bodies were recovered.
Families of the men who died have been campaigning for their bodies to be discovered and returned to them, and the subject has become politically contentious.
When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government took power in 2017, it promised to re-examine the matter after the previous government said it was too dangerous.