New Zealand mine recovery abandoned

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Fire and volatile explosive gases have barred entry to the Pike River mine for nearly two months (AP)

New Zealand police have abandoned efforts to recover the bodies of 29 miners – including two Britons – from a coal mine that was rocked by a series of explosions in November.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad said it was too dangerous to attempt to find the bodies and he would not put additional lives at risk in the Pike River mine on South Island.

Fire and volatile explosive gases have barred entry for nearly two months.

“The likelihood of getting into the mine safely is unrealistic because it is too unsafe,” said Mr Broad.

“In my view, it is time to focus on the living and to respect and memorialise those men who have died.”

The 29 men were trapped after methane gas-fuelled blasts went off on November 19.

Police said last week that dangerous gas levels had again built up in the mine, prompting the evacuation of rescue workers from the site. Temperatures have continued to reach as high as 100C, and gas readings remain unstable.

Pike River Coal had been operating for about two years. It sold coking coal to offshore steel producers and was New Zealand’s second-biggest coal exporter.

New Zealand’s mine sector is generally safe with 181 people killed in the past 114 years.

The worst disaster was in March 1896 when 65 miners died in a gas explosion. The Pike River blasts happened in the same coal seam.

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