NZ: Police to Reopen Investigation into Pike River Mine Explosion

New Zealand police will reopen their investigation into the 2010 Pike River Mine disaster should re-entry to the mine be achieved. Police say they are open to laying criminal charges.

In November 2010, a methane explosion ripped through the remote Pike River Mine on New Zealand's south island, killing 29 men who's bodies have never been recovered.

An original police probe was closed in 2013 with charges against former Pike River Coal boss Peter Whittall dropped. The families were told there was not enough evidence to pursue manslaughter charges.

However, following a commitment from New Zealand's new government to re-enter the mine for the first time, top police officials have been visiting the families affected by the tragedy to discuss the possibility of a fresh investigation.

In a statement, the police said they would have a dual role should re-entry to the mine be achieved.

"One involves completion of the scene examination in relation to the original police investigation. The other role involves management of any processes required on behalf of the coroner.

"Any new evidence which is identified would be assessed to determine what, if any relevance it had on the original investigation which concluded in July 2013."

A representative of the affected families, Bernie Monk, said the families had "always considered Pike River to be a crime scene."

"We've always wanted the police to investigate it a lot more - right from the word go we pushed for that, and all of a sudden they've arrived on our doorstep after a lot of dialogue and said yes, they are going to re-investigate it and reopen up the investigation, which should be very pleasing to the families."

The question of whether to re-enter the mine has polarised New Zealand politics in recent years, with questions over safety and cost. But it seem re-entry to the mine could happen by the end of 2018 at a budgeted cost of $NZ23 million ($A21 million).

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