A robot may be able to enter the Pike River mine this week, a mines rescue manager says. New Zealand Mines Rescue Manager Trevor Watts told the press yesterday that staff had completed a small sealing operation at the mine's portal on Friday.
The sealing operation would allow a robot – on loan from Western Australia – into the mine to film roadways and provide information about the tunnel's condition, he said.
However, while the robot may be able to enter the West Coast mine this week, it could be months before anyone was able to go in, he said.
This same robot was the one sent into the mine after the second explosion last November, Watts said. Twenty-nine workers died in the mine as a result of the explosion.
Two army robots that were sent earlier as a part of the rescue efforts are still in the mine. While one of them broke down a few hundred metres from the entrance, the other was believed to have been destroyed in one of the blasts.
Bernie Monk, whose son Michael perished in the mine, said yesterday he and the legal team acting for the workers' families hoped to visit the mine today.
Some of the families were struggling "more than ever" with the situation, he said. Many families felt things were "never going to finish", Monk said.
A funeral was held for miner Riki Keane, 28, on Saturday. Monk said the service brought home the struggle faced by friends and colleagues.
Some families would not hold funerals until the bodies were recovered, although they understood that it could be months before anyone could enter the mine, he said. "We won't rest until we have the bodies back."
Meanwhile, West Coast singer Mel Parsons will raise money for the Pike River Miners Relief Fund Trust with a concert in Greymouth on March 5. Parsons, who lost her partner in an accident in 2007, said her heart went out to the wives and partners of the Pike River workers.