THE body of a Howard man, trapped in the Pike River mine in New Zealand for almost three years, might be coming home next year.
Re-entry work began on Sunday at the mine site where 29 men, including Willie Joynson, were killed.
His wife, Kim Joynson, has spent much of that time waiting for answers about why the tragedy happened and hoping that her husband's body might one day be recovered.
The New Zealand government agreed to put up $8.87 million for the project so it could go ahead.
Work began on Sunday to seal off the ventilation shaft in the main entry tunnel.
Then nitrogen will be pumped into the tunnel to force out the methane and mine experts will be able to walk down the 2.3km shaft to a rockfall.
Most of the bodies are believed to be in tunnels beyond the rockfall.
Mrs Joynson said that's where she believed Willie's body was resting.
She said after all the years of wondering, it would be a relief to find out what happened and how it happened, but she knows finding out will require patience.
"It will be an ongoing operation," Mrs Joynson said, adding that experts are expecting to be able to enter the mine early next year.
"It is hard to deal with," Kim said. "It's good to know something is being done.
"The hardest part is the uncertainty of not knowing. It plays with your mind, thinking what if?"
She said Willie had harboured safety concerns about the operation of the mine but had loved his job and working in the mining industry, adding that Willie was well-respected by the people he worked with.
Mrs Joynson said her husband had been a very caring person who was always willing to lend a hand.
"He was the kind of person who would get in and help out."
When asked how the family would feel if they were able to finally give Willie a proper burial, Mrs Joynson had to fight back tears.
"I guess that's still hard," she said.
She has completed two gravestones in Willie's memory, one that has been erected in New Zealand and one that is closer to home at Maryborough cemetery - a place for the family to grieve.
Mrs Joynson said her two boys, Benjamin and Jonathon, enjoyed going to school in Maryborough and the family had settled happily there.
They even worked at the Brolga Theatre as ushers, which was something they really enjoyed, she said.
The family also recently returned to New Zealand during the school holidays and Mrs Joynson said the country was still like a second home.