DOC red tape had no impact on mine safety'

16:00, Nov 23 2010
mine
File photo of a rock conveyor exiting the Pike River coal mine
Pike River Coal mine
Site of the Pike River Coal mine.
Pike River Coal mine
A diagram of the Pike River Coal mine.
Pike River Coal mine
A diagram of the Pike River Coal mine.
Pike River Coal mine
A file photo of a portal in the Pike River Coal mine.
Pike River Coal mine
A file photo of the construction of a tunnel in the mine.
Pike River Coal Mine location
Pike River Coal Mine location
Pike River Coal mine
The police cordon near the Pike River Mine where miners are missing after an explosion.
Blair Sims
Blair Sims, making the tackle, has been named as one of those trapped in the mine.
Peter Whittall
WAITING: Relatives of the miners and contractors trapped in the Pike River Mine leave a meeting after being briefed by mine management in Greymouth.
John Key
John Key prepares to board an airforce plane to travel to Greymouth and the scene of the Pike River coal mine explosion.
HARD TIME: Family members of one of the 29 miners and contractors leave a meeting after being briefed by mine management on Saturday morning.
Family members of the 29 miners and contractors after a meeting with mine management on Saturday morning.
HARD TIME: Family members of one of the 29 miners and contractors leave a meeting after being briefed by mine management on Saturday morning.
Family members of the 29 miners and contractors go to a meeting with mine management.
HARD TIME: Family members of one of the 29 miners and contractors leave a meeting after being briefed by mine management on Saturday morning.
Family members of the 29 miners and contractors after a meeting with mine management on Saturday morning.
Pike River
REMOTE ROAD: A signboard of the access road leading to the Pike River mine where miners are trapped underground in Greymouth.
A church service for friends and family to light a candle for the trapped miners at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Greymouth.
A church service for friends and family to light a candle for the trapped miners, at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Greymouth.
Children at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Greymouth light candles for the trapped miners.
Children at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Greymouth light candles for the trapped miners.
Churchgoers at a service for friends and family of the trapped miners, at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Greymouth.
Churchgoers at a service for friends and family of the trapped miners, at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Greymouth.
Greymouth mine disaster
The family and friends of the missing miners support each other while waiting for news.
Greymouth mine disaster
The family and friends of the missing miners support each other while waiting for news.
Mine disaster
The family and friends of the missing miners support each other while waiting for news.
Mine gallery
The family and friends of the missing miners support each other while waiting for news.
Mine disaster
The family and friends of the missing miners support each other while waiting for news.
Mine gallery
The family and friends of the missing miners support each other while waiting for news.
Mine gallery
The family and friends of the missing miners support each other while waiting for news.
Pike River chief executive Peter Whittall and Police Superintendent Gary Knowles
Pike River chief executive Peter Whittall and Police Superintendent Gary Knowles at Sunday morning's press conference.
mine entrance
The entrance to the Pike River Coal mine where 29 workers were trapped after an explosion.
car
A Pike River Coal company vehicle sits at the closest safe point to the entrance of the mine where 29 workers were trapped inside after an explosion.
Robot
The first Defence Force robot to be used in the mine rescue.
whittall
Pike River chief executive Peter Whittall shows the strain.
Bernie Monk, father of trapped miner Michael Monk
Bernie Monk, the father of trapped miner Michael Monk, after the Tuesday morning briefing for relatives, five days after the explosion.
Martin Palmer, father of trapped miner Brendan Palmer
Relatives console each other after Tuesday morning's briefing, five days since the Pike River Coal mine explosion. At left is Martin Palmer, father of trapped miner Brendan Palmer.
Pike River Coal mine relatives
Relatives console each other after Tuesday morning's briefing, five days since the Pike River Coal mine explosion. At right is Trevor O'Neill, brother of trapped miner Peter O'Neill.
Pike Rover Coal mine
Left to right: Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee, Police Commissioner Howard Broad, and Police Minister Judith Collins at Greymouth on Tuesday.
Pike River Coal mine
Relatives gather after Tuesday morning's briefing, five days since the Pike River Coal mine explosion.
Pike River Coal mine rescue efort
An Air Force Iroquois drops off Search and Rescue crew working on the Pike River Coal mine rescue operation back in Greymouth on Tuesday.
Pike River operation
A helicopter flies over the Pike River coal mine near Greymouth.
AGONY OF WAITING: Family leave a briefing after viewing CCTV footage of the explosion at the Pike River coal mine.
Family leave a briefing after viewing CCTV footage of the explosion at the Pike River coal mine.
AGONY OF WAITING: Family leave a briefing after viewing CCTV footage of the explosion at the Pike River coal mine.
Family leave a briefing after viewing CCTV footage of the explosion at the Pike River coal mine.
Pike River Coal chief executive Peter Whittall, shows a projected map of the mine at a media briefing.
Pike River Coal chief executive Peter Whittall shows a projected map of the mine at a media briefing.
Aerial view of drilling rig at Pike River coal mine.
An aerial view of drilling rig at Pike River coal mine.
WINDOW TO THE SOUL: A community's support for the 29 miners and contractors trapped in the Pike River mine is summed up by a sign in a Greymouth shop.
A community's support for the 29 miners and contractors who were trapped in the Pike River mine is summed up by a sign in a Greymouth shop.
A third robot arrived from Australia this morning on a New Zealand Airforce hercules.
A third robot arrived from Australia this morning on a New Zealand Airforce hercules.
The third robot was unloaded at Hokitika airport shortly after 8am.
The third robot was unloaded at Hokitika airport shortly after 8am.
The third robot, from Australia, arrived when two Defence Force robots were already in the mine.
The third robot, from Australia, arrived when two Defence Force robots were already in the mine.
Pike River Coal mine relatives
Relatives leave their morning briefing on the Pike River Coal mine crisis at the Grey District Council buildings on Wednesday.
Pike River Coal mine relatives
Relatives leave their morning briefing on the Pike River Coal mine crisis at the Grey District Council buildings on Wednesday.
Pike River Coal mine relatives
Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn, left, comforts relatives after Wednesday morning's briefing on the Pike River Coal Mine disaster.
Gerry Brownlee
Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee takes a phone call outside the press conference at the police station on Wednesday.
Pike River Coal mine disaster
A local passes the miners hall in Runanga on the outskirts of Greymouth on Wednesday.
Pike River Mine disaster
Mine rescue co-ordinator Superintendent Gary Knowles, left, and mine boss Peter Whittall front the media on Wednesday.
Pike River Coal mine
SHOCK: Shortly after family members were told of the second explosion at the Pike River mine.

Environmental concerns did not compromise safety at the Pike River mine, Conservation Department director-general Al Morrison says.

"We set stringent conditions and they met them to the extent that we gave them a conservation award. But our involvement ... it was principally about access and then what was done around the site – once they start boring into the mountain, it's not really us."

Nor were environmental concerns foremost when the mine rescue mission started and an access road needed to be built, Mr Morrison said.

Chris Duggan
CHRIS DUGGAN: 31, Greymouth.
Malcolm Campbell
MALCOLM CAMPBELL: 25, Greymouth. Was due to marry Kiwi fiancee Amanda on December 18. Originally from St Andrews in Fife, Scotland.
Pete Rodger
PETE RODGER: 40, Greymouth. From Perth, Scotland, and lived in New Zealand with his girlfriend.
Ben Rockhouse
BEN ROCKHOUSE: 21, Greymouth. The younger brother of coal miner Daniel Rockhouse, 24, who was one of only two men to escape the mine.
Josh Ufer
JOSH UFER: 25, Middlemount, Queensland, Australia. Ufer's fiancee, Rachelle Weaver, is three months pregnant.
Milton Osborne
MILTON OSBORNE: 54, Ngahere. A Grey District councillor and contractor at the Pike River mine.
Missing miner Brendon Palmer
BRENDON PALMER: 27, Cobden. Second-generation miner - his father Marty also works at the Pike River Mine.
missing miner Blair Sims
BLAIR SIMS: 28, Greymouth. Married with two young children. Was West Coast rugby league player of the year for the past two years.
Michael Mony, missing miner
MICHAEL MONK: 23, Greymouth. Rugby rep for the West Coast. Had a long-term girlfriend. Son of hotelier Bernie Monk and West Coast netball rep and coach Cath Monk.
missing miner Zen Drew
ZEN DREW: 21, Greymouth.
missing miner Conrad Adams
CONRAD ADAMS: 43, Greymouth.
Jacobus Albertus Jonker
JACOBUS ALBERTUS JONKER: 47, Cobden, South Africa.
Stuart Mudge
STUART MUDGE: 31, Runanga. Orginally from Whangarei. His dad said working in the mine gave Stuart an "outlet for his energy".
David Mark Hoggart
DAVID MARK HOGGART: 33, Foxton.
John Leonard Hale
JOHN LEONARD HALE: 45, Ruatapu. Lived in neighbouring house to partner Brenda Rackley on the outskirts of Hokitika. Hale was a contractor for Chris Yeats Builders.
Andrew David Hurren
ANDREW DAVID HURREN: 32, Hokitika. A keen hunter and fisherman, known as Huck to his friends.
Daniel Thomas Herk
DANIEL THOMAS HERK: 36, Runanga. Grew up between Greymouth and Hokitika and has done a lot of mine work, his grandfather says.
Glen Peter Cruse
GLEN PETER CRUSE: 35, Cobden. Grew up in Greymouth. Leaves a partner and two children.
Joseph Ray Dunbar
JOSEPH RAY DUNBAR: 17, Greymouth. The youngest of the miners. The day of the explosion was his first day working underground.
Kane Barry Nieper
KANE BARRY NIEPER: 33, Greymouth. Nieper was married with a young family.
Riki Steve Keane
RIKI STEVE KEANE: 28, Greymouth. First five-eighth for the Blaketown Rugby Football Club, one of three club members to perish in the mine.
Keith Thomas Valli
KEITH THOMAS VALLI: 62, Winton. The oldest of the 29 miners.
Peter O'Neill
PETER O'NEILL: 55, Runanga. Member of a well known mining family and keen lawn bowler.
Richard Bennett Holling
RICHARD BENNETT HOLLING: 41, Blackball. Grew up in Christchurch and is the first of his family to go down a mine.
Samuel Peter Mackie
SAMUEL PETER MACKIE: 26, Greymouth.
Terry David Kitchin
TERRY DAVID KITCHIN: 41, Rununga. Has three children under the age of 10.
William John Joynson
WILLIAM JOHN JOYNSON: 49, Dunollie, Australia. An experienced underground miner who worked for many years in the Burgowan mines at Howard, near Bundaberg. His wife and two children live in Queensland.
 Allan John Dixon, 59, Runanga, miner
ALAN JOHN DIXON: 59, Runanga. Leaves a partner and two sons.
Francis Skiddy Marden
FRANCIS SKIDDY MARDEN: 41, Runanga.

"There was just no question, that's what you do. Nobody stopped to think about red tape."

Mr Morrison said pests, such as possums and stoats, did more damage to conservation land than mining. "They [pests] simply lay the place to waste over huge areas."

The Pike River mine had to navigate sensitive environmental challenges above the ground, as well as difficult geology below.

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The prize was access to the Brunner seam of high-quality coal and, deeper, the Paparoa seam.

Pike River Coal was granted a mining permit for a block of land that includes part of Paparoa National Park. The mine does not impinge on the national park, but lies on public conservation land.

The company has an access agreement with DOC. Once mining has finished, all evidence of the project has to be removed, such as buildings, bridges and powerlines.

Pike River Coal has spent millions of dollars to meet environmental guidelines. It recycles water, has kept its surface features to a minimum and has zig-zagged powerlines and roads around ancient rimu trees.

The mine company says it uses only eight hectares of DOC land but oversees extensive pest and predator control programmes over 1300 hectares in the local catchment area. It also runs a whio (blue duck) enhancement programme.

In a letter to investors in May, during the debate on more mineral prospecting on conservation land, the company's chief executive at the time, Gordon Ward, held up Pike River as an example of what could be achieved.

"In fact, New Zealand has an opportunity to be a world leader in developing `green mines'. Our mine at Pike River proves that it can be done."

It was likely any new mines would be underground, he said.

"In such cases the surface impact is small, the infrastructure is removed at the end of mining and the small areas affected are restored. On the small areas affected, trees grow back."

Mining companies had to lodge "significant cash bonds" and insurances to ensure DOC and the public were protected from any environmental concerns during the mine's life and subsequent restoration work.

When Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee opened the Pike River mine almost two years ago, he said the project was a "carefully crafted marriage of good mining practice and environmental good management".

He said no trucks would be used to carry coal down the mountain, reducing noise and dust, and that the mine's surface footprint had been kept to a minimum.

The Press