The concrete seal to the Pike River Mine has finally been broken, family members have confirmed to Newshub.
The seal was used to prevent access into the mine ever since the fatal explosions which claimed the lives of 29 men in November 2010.
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The families of the dead have gathered at the gates of the mine to watch the re-entry as a loader brought into the mine removed the seal. Witnesses say there have been cheers and clapping as it broke through.
Spokesperson Sonya Rockhouse told The AM Show it's a big moment.
"Pulling that plug out is like pulling the cork out of a bottle and releasing whatever... and it's just the beginning of the end of a journey for us."
Widow Anna Osborne told Newshub she's excited and nervous about the re-entry.
"It's a private family gathering at the Pike River Mine portal, where there should be about 30 family members gathered," she says.
"We really wanted it just to be about the families."
The next step will be the entry of a recovery crew, which will search for any evidence as to what happened on that day in 2010.
"We've been negotiating this equipment and getting it prepared for about eight months now," Pike River Recover Agency chief officer Dinghy Pattinson told Newshub in April.
"You go back eight years and we left a note to say we would return, and for me this is the first part of that journey really."