Editorial - Mines scrutiny vital

Last updated 08:16 19/07/2012

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The country collectively let out a breath of relief on Tuesday when it was announced that 28 miners stuck below ground at Newmont's Waihi mine had been rescued.

The memory of the November 2010 Pike River Mine disaster is all too clear and the prospect of some sort of repeat was the first thought on many minds.

The emergency was sparked when a truck driver under the mine noticed smoke coming from under a bonnet about 5am. Miners hunkered down in three underground refuge chambers until they could be rescued.

There was not the risk of a gas explosion as with Pike River Mine but the prospect of fire and smoke was a concerning one.

There have been recent scares at Huntly East Coal Mine and this was yet another reminder of the dangers in the industry - whatever type of mine it is. If people are hundreds of metres below ground when any sort of accident occurs the stakes are so much higher.

Understandably, the nation is hyper-sensitive about mining safety and Newmont has been quick to emphasise that safety measures were tight and the seven-hour rescue effort went to plan.

General manager Glen Grindlay described the rescue as "textbook".

"It's a scenario we train for regularly. Everyone involved knew what to do and the guys underground knew they were safe and help was on its way.”

Only one miner suffered smoke inhalation.

It is also reassuring that in six years of operation this is the first fire at the mine.

It hasn't stopped some opposition politicians reinstating their push for a more comprehensive mine inspection regime. Although some of this is opportunistic, it does no harm to keep pressure on mining companies and the Government to ensure the country's mining industry is regulated according to international best practice.

The Pike River Royal Commission of Inquiry is due to report back to the Governor-General in September. Now two more investigations are under way into Tuesday's incident - one by Newmont itself and another by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's High Hazards Unit.

After the terrible lesson of nearly two years ago such scrutiny is vital.

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- Waikato Times

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