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Pike River recovery meeting 'constructive'

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WELLINGTON, Feb 26 AAP

February 26 2013, 12:56AM

Underground mine experts are debating which is the better way of two methods of re-entering New Zealand's Pike River Coal mine to retrieve the bodies of the 29 men buried inside.

Experts hired by Pike River mine families met with the mine's new owner Solid Energy, Mines Rescue and government officials in Christchurch on Tuesday to discuss options for recovering bodies.

The men - including two Australians - have been entombed in the West Coast mine since a series of explosions tore through the mine in November, 2010.

A statement on behalf of the Pike River drift exploration working group, following Tuesday's meeting, described it as constructive.

"Progress is being made, but there is more work to do."

The group is considering two methods for re-entering the drift - the main shaft that goes into the mine. One involves a staged re-entry and the other boring a shaft down to the drift.

The group believed that both have the potential to be done safely, but more work is needed before a decision is made on which is preferable.

Families spokesman Bernie Monk was happy with progress, and believed work could possibly start in a few months, rather than years.

The experts would sort out which was the easiest and safest way to re-enter the drift and then the plan would be presented to Prime Minister John Key and the government's High Hazards Unit, he told NZ Newswire.

Mr Monk did not know how much the operation would cost.

"I don't think money has entered it too much. As it is we are only talking about phase one, the drift re-entry," he told NZ Newswire.

Last year, Mr Key promised the government would pay for a recovery operation if it proved possible, safe and financially credible.

By Dave Williams