The work to re-enter the Pike River mine has reached a significant step, with the workers last night reaching the Rocsil Plug near the end of the drift.
The temporary expanding foam plug, which was installed in November 2019 via a borehole, creates a separation barrier between the fresh air atmosphere in the drift and the nitrogen and methane atmosphere of the mine workings.
Pike River Recovery Agency chief operating officer Dinghy Pattinson, said work would end until next year.
"We've now achieved another milestone - reaching the Rocsil Plug around 2244m up the Pike River Mine drift. This is as far as we go this year, as we close down for Christmas today," he said in a statement.
He said next year would begin with some final forensic work around the plug area, and then installation of a ventilation control device, effectively a wall with an airlock and doors.
Pattison said that would allow fresh air to be circulated right up to that point in the drift.
After that, mine workers wearing long duration breathing apparatus would be able to go through an airlock door, tunnel through the plug to the roof fall to carry out the final forensic searches of the drift.
Work will restart on 5 January.