Families of Pike River victims praise 'satisfying' progress into mine's drift

Families of the Pike River Mine victims are praising further progress into the mine's drift.

Four recovery agency staff went 170 metres into the drift on Tuesday and reached a set of doors that haven't been entered since being installed in 2011.

Sonya Rockhouse, whose son Ben died in the tragedy, said it was very exciting.

"It's another momentous day. It's the start of going all the way up now, nothing to stop us."

Rockhouse said the progress was "very satisfying" and it was good to get the action they've been wanting "for a long time".

She adds that the process is slow, but she doesn't "want to rush" the recovery team.

"We've waited nine years, so we're patient, we'll wait for them to do the job properly," she said.

Pike River Recovery Agency chief operating officer Dinghy Pattison said reaching the 170 metre barrier "was a long time coming".

"Last time I was on the other side of that 170, I was part of the Mines Rescue team looking for where to put a wall. And that was back in 2011. So today was pretty significant for me."

He added that the team's initial scan didn't reveal anything unexpected.

"We know we'll have to do some work on the roof and ribs as soon as we get the barrier out of the way in January. But it's looking pretty good," he said.

Moving past the barrier marks the start of the next recovery phase which will be to advance safely up the rest of the 2.3km drift, carrying out forensic examinations along the way.

Two weeks ago, WorkSafe agreed the Pike River Recovery Agency's plans to re-enter the 2.3km drift were safe.

"We've got a big job to undertake over coming months, and we wanted to get through if it was safe to do so before our Christmas closedown," Pattison said.

"We'll shut and secure the door now for a couple of weeks. It will give us more time to monitor the underground environment before starting to remove the barrier in the new year."