Pike River protester delays mine sealing

Karl Barkley stands in defiance of the plans to seal the Pike River mine (Newshub)
Karl Barkley stands in defiance of the plans to seal the Pike River mine (Newshub)

Police have removed a protester from the road to the Pike River mine, after he blocked contractors attempting to seal it. 

Karl Barkley was a close friend of mine worker Keith Valli, who died in the 2010 disaster.

"I'm trying to stop Solid Energy getting up there this week and sealing it off," he says. "Once they do that it's going to make it very hard for the families to have a re-entry into the drift.

"It's actually a crime scene which police should be investigating, not letting them seal it off."

He parked his car across the road leading up to the mine and placed 29 large stones across the road, one for each of the victims still in the mine.

Mr Barkley was removed by police on Monday morning, after delaying contractors for two hours.

But he says he won't stop fighting, and is calling on Prime Minister John Key to honour his promise to the families that he would get the victims' bodies out.

"Where else in the world would you leave 29 people stuck in a horrible place like that when they could be recovered and passed on to their families to have a decent funeral and some sort of closure," he says.

Pike River protester delays mine sealing

The sign reads "help us stop the sealing of the Pike River mine" (Newshub)

"These are people, not just an objective, they're somebody's loved ones, somebody's father, somebody's son."

A lawyer representing relatives of some of the victims says the families won't give up either.

Nigel Hampton QC, who's acting on behalf of Bernie Monk, Anna Osbourne and Sonia Rockhouse, is asking WorkSafe New Zealand to review its notice ordering the mine be permanently sealed by 30 November.

"If they turn us down, we are applying, on appeal, to the district court, and we can apply for a stay from the district court," he says.

He says they're just asking for access into the drift, not the mine itself.

"The drift is through stone rock, not through coal and methane it's quite separate from the mine, it's not explosive because so much methane is present," he says.

With the possibility there are victims' remains in the drift, Mr Hampton says the family should at least have the opportunity to explore it.

"The families' predicament is awful," he says.

"There is good evidence to suggest there is at least one body in that drift - maybe more.

"Why should they not have the opportunity to explore that?"