Pike directors reject safety issues
Tuesday 6 Nov 2012 9:41 a.m.
The former bosses of Pike River Coal have hit back at accusations the underground mine put production ahead of safety before 29 men were killed in methane explosions.
The Pike River royal commission, whose report was released on Monday, found safety took a back seat at the financially struggling mine - outlining how short cuts put the lives of the workers at risk before the November 2010 explosions.
This morning there have been calls for criminal charges to be laid over the shortcomings, with Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn blaming the managers of the mine.
Prime Minister John Key has also said primary responsibility for the deaths should lie with the company, now owned by Solid Energy.
But a statement from the lawyers for former directors John Dow, Ray Meyer, Stuart Nattrass and former chief executive Peter Whittall rejected accusations they wanted to run an unsafe mine.
The men only saw the commission's 400-page report some time after it was released to the media and were still digesting it.
However, they said they disagree with any suggestions that the board did not act appropriately over health and safety at the mine.
"The company set out to create a safe, world-class coal mine," they said.
Pike River received advice from scores of experienced local and international consultants and experts at various stages of mine development.
It also recruited well-qualified managers, many from overseas, and recognised the need for good training programmes for workers.
They said Department of Labour inspectors oversaw the mine's development and operation but the department "did not have the necessary focus, capability or strategies".
Many parties who were now commenting on safety operations at the mine had remained quiet when the mine was operating, they said.
The men said they and others had co-operated with the inquiry, despite knowing they would be put under the spotlight.
That contrasted with other senior managers, such as former chief executive Gordon Ward, who had not given evidence, they said.
NZN / 3 News