Pike River: Emotions high as victims' families to go underground, enter 170m barrier

The AM Show 03/10/2019

A woman whose husband died in the Pike River Mine disaster has revealed her battle with cancer, as some families prepare to enter the mine for the very first time.

It comes almost nine years after 29 men were killed in a series of explosions in the West Coast mine.

Family members say Thursday's event - going to the 170-metre barrier - is a significant step.

It's especially significant for Anna Osbourne, who will head to Christchurch after Thursday's trip underground, to have a stem cell transplant.

"I've been battling cancer for quite a while now," she told The AM Show.

But it's got to the stage where I need to be treated or else I've got months to a year to live.

"I'm hoping to have quite a few more years - Pike's unfinished business for me.

"I really want to kick this cancer, and carry on and fight, and get some justice for our men. They deserve so much better than what they got."

At 9am, 30 family members will head the furthest they've been allowed into the mine. 

Speaking alongside Osbourne on Thursday morning, Pike Family Reference Group spokesperson Sonya Rockhouse said the emotions were hard to describe.

"Today [Thursday] is going to be a difficult day. Along with all the joy, there's going to be sadness. Because knowing that our men are up there somewhere, but they shouldn't be there.

It's the closest we've ever been to our men, and it's a very important stage because it's the final seal.

"Once that seal is gone, there's nothing stopping us from there," Rockhouse told The AM Show.

The mine was finally re-entered in May, weeks after it was delayed by faulty equipment and nearly a decade after the initial explosion.

It was New Zealand's worst mining disaster since 1914.

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Mark Quinlivan