Pike River inquiry: 60 Mins raises big issues - EPMU

  • Breaking
  • 16/12/2010

By Jerram Watts and Deanna Harris

New revelations into the Pike River tragedy only highlight the need for check inspectors to be placed on the Royal Commission of Inquiry, says the EPMU.

A 60 Minutes story ‘Blood on Coal’ revealed unknown information including a previous gas evacuation, ignitions underground, tracking devices that did not work, a less than desirable escape route and contraband, including cigarette lighters, being found in the mine.

EPMU national secretary Andrew Little says he was impressed with the 60 Minutes piece and says it raises some big issues that the Royal Commission of Inquiry will have to address.

“The issue of check inspectors has to be placed squarely before the Commission,” he says. “If the allegations are correct then it could make a big difference to the inquiry.”

Mr Little says the allegations raised had been mentioned around the Pike River community, but he says insight the programme offered into the unwillingness of people to voice concerns was striking.

He says West Coasters have been keeping quiet about what they know and the inquiry will open up new avenues of communication for them.

“The Royal Commission of Inquiry is a way of getting the information out rather than talking over the back fence or at the pub.

“The families can be assured that if anything was unsatisfactory, it will be identified.”

Spokesman for the Pike River miners’ families, Bernie Monk, says the families met again last night, however, he did not raise the allegations brought in the 60 Minutes piece.

However, he did say he personally was “very concerned” with the allegations and that the families have had other people present them with similar information.

In the story, Pike River Coal CEO Peter Whittall admitted the disaster was preventable.

He also said there were a number of human and systemic errors which may have caused or contributed to the explosion which trapped 29 men underground.

Brent Foster an Australian miner who has worked at Pike River before told 60 Minutes he saw flames break out at the coalface and that a procedure called ‘stone dusting’ – applying lime to surfaces to control coal dust – was not done enough at the mine.

The flames Mr Foster saw are known in the industry as ‘ignitions’ and are treated extremely seriously.

Pike River Coal has confirms the fire was part of a series of ignitions and a number of remedial actions were taken, in consultation with the mines inspector.

The company has also confirmed it was issued with a notification in August about the lack of a stone dusting plan.

Pike River says a plan was then implemented and a follow-up inspection in October did not mention stone dusting.

In November, just before the explosion, there was monitoring of the stone dusting and sampling was due to be carried out on the Monday, three days after the mine blew up.

Mr Little says some industries including mining should have the best possible protection for staff no matter the cost.

“It’s about a sensible recognition that some workplaces and industries are inherently dangerous.”

He says the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, needs to dust off the work done in 2008 on this and other mine safety issues and put it in front of the Commission.

“We owe it to the 29 men who died in the Pike River coal mine and the rest of the 7,270 people that work in mining sector to do this,” he says.

Mr Mink says he is optimistic the inquiry will get to the bottom of the November 4 disaster.

“It is important for the families not only to find out why, but also to make sure these things don’t happen again.”

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source: newshub archive