Human remains spotted in New Zealand coal mine 11 years after explosions killed 29 men with their bodies missing

Human remains spotted in New Zealand coal mine 11 years after explosions killed 29 men with their bodies missing

At least two sets of human remains have been pictured deep inside a New Zealand coal mine, 11 years after a series of explosions killed 29 men there.

Police say they also saw what looked like a third body but the hard-to-reach mine location meant there was no chance of recovering the remains.

The Pike River mining disaster happened in November 2010 when two blasts ripped through the mine killing 29 men with only two were on shift, able to escape.

Since the tragic event, none of the miners' bodies have ever been recovered.

In 2012, a Royal Commission found that the miners and contractors had been exposed to "unacceptable risk" in the South Island mine. It said there were "numerous warnings of a potential catastrophe at Pike River" but there have been no prosecutions since.

By digging a borehole, experts have now been able to gather images from the deepest depths of the mine.

In 2017, the government funded a recovery operation but it was abandoned in March this year. Officials said the operation had gone 2.2km (around 1.5 miles) inside the mine without success and it was too hard and costly to continue.

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The newly discovered human remains are in the furthest part of the mine from the entrance, police said. They have not been identified.

It is believed that between six and eight men were working in that part of the mine where the photographs were taken.

"At this point, we have been unable to identify the remains, however we will consult with forensic experts," Detective Superintendent Peter Read said.

Andrew Little, the New Zealand minister responsible for the recovery operation, said: "I know some families would like to go further, but that won't be possible."

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