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New Zealand postpones long-awaited re-entry into deadly mine

New Zealand postponed plans to re-enter Pike River Mine in which 29 men died in 2010, just one day before the shaft was set to be unsealed on Friday, an official said on Thursday.

“Yesterday, unexpected and unexplained, readings were reported by the atmospheric monitoring systems in the Pike River mine, leading to re-entry operations being suspended.

“Safety has always been our first priority and will continue to be,’’ the minister in charge of the operation, Andrew Little, said.

According to him, in these circumstances, the appropriate precaution is to temporarily suspend operations.

While previous governments deemed the re-entry too dangerous, the Labour Party set up a Pike River Recovery Agency after its 2017 election tasked with recovering bodies and investigating the cause of the explosion.

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Friday’s operation was aimed at getting to the so called 30-metre mark where the mine was sealed nine days after the initial explosion in November 19, 2010 that killed 29 men.

Families of the victims have pressed ever since to find out what happened.

A Royal Commission in 2012 found that the Pike River Coal mine disaster was a preventable tragedy.

However, it could not pinpoint the actual cause of a series of explosions.

The re-entry into the mine is set to cost in excess of 36 million New Zealand dollars ($24 million).

Little said the agency would know more after further testing and investigative work in the coming week and a meeting of ventilation experts later in the month. (NAN)