NZ's mine safety record 'Third World'

Last updated 18:24 05/11/2012
Daniel Tobin

Pike River families' lawyer Nicholas Davidson and Bernie Monk comment on the commission findings.

Pike River 9
Olivia Monk lost her brother in the mine and misses him every day.

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A report into the Pike River coalmine disaster reveals New Zealand’s "Third World" health and safety record for mining, according to the lawyer for the grieving families.

Nicholas Davidson QC said families were surprised to see how poorly the country compared internationally for mining safety.

He quoted from the report, the country’s 12th royal commission or commission of inquiry into mining disasters, which noted ‘‘lessons from the past, learnt at the cost of lives, have not been retained’’.

Another startling revelation was an email by an underviewer at the mine to management in April 2010 calling for a complete redesign of its methane drainage, stating ‘‘history has shown us in the mining industry that methane when given the write(sic) environment will show us no mercy’’.

‘‘Nothing was done,’’ Davidson said.

The mine’s poor methane management was highlighted in the fact there were 21 reports of methane levels reaching explosive levels in the 48 days before the explosion and 27 reports of lesser, but potentially dangerous volumes.

He said the failure for anyone to act was ‘‘inconceivable that such a shocking error took place’’.

Bernie Monk, a spokesman for most of the 29 dead men’s families, welcomed the Government’s plans to consider introducing corporate manslaughter charges.

The families had previously wanted someone to be held accountable.

They had been assured today at a briefing on the Royal Commission’s report that such a move would be considered.
Monk, whose son Michael died in the blast, said the report held no surprises.

“It’s a moving on for me.

‘‘I think this is what I’ve been waiting for.”

He applauded assurances that a Government representative would talk to families within the next two weeks about plans to re-enter the mine.

His daughter, Olivia Monk, said the fight for justice for the dead men was “not over yet”.

She was pleased the report acknowledged failures that led to the disaster and that the deaths were “avoidable”.
However, there was “more to be done”, she said.

The next step was to get into the mine, gather evidence and find out “who is to blame”.

“We’ve been fighting to get these boys justice. It’s 29 lives. It’s not over yet. They’re still not home,’’ Olivia Monk said.

“My little brother had so much to live for. I miss him every day.”

 “Nothing will ever bring him back.”

Lynne Sims, who lost her son Blair, said the report was “very damning” and “very thorough”.

She said the family briefing was “very emotional” and there was still a lot of information from the inquiry to process.

She expected changes recommended to happen quickly, possibly even before Christmas.

“We live in hope.’’

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