6 Nov 2012

Pike directors wanted a safe, world-class mine

4:20 pm on 6 November 2012

Directors of the Pike River Coal Ltd, which is now in receivership, say they set out to create a safe world-class mine and never intended it to be developed or operated unsafely.

Three of its directors responded on Tuesday to the Royal Commission report on the mine tragedy in which 29 men died after a series of explosions at the West Coast mine that began on 19 November 2001.

In its report released on Monday afternoon, the Royal Commission outlined a litany of problems, with many warnings of a potential catastrophe that were not recognised in the months before the deadly methane explosions.

The commission blamed a culture of production before safety at the mine for causing the workers' deaths and found that urgent legislative, structural and attitude changes are needed to avoid a repeat of the disaster.

The Department of Labour has come in for particularly heavy criticism for failing to properly supervise operations at Pike River, where the drive for coal production before the mine was ready created the circumstances of the tragedy.

Pike River Coal directors John Dow, Ray Meyer and Stuart Nattrass said on Tuesday that the company got advice from scores of experienced local and international consultants and recruited well-qualified managers.

They said they disagree with any suggestions that the board did not act appropriately with regard to the management of health and safety at the mine.

The directors also said they willingly participated in and assisted the Royal Commission, believing they had a moral obligation to do so - even though the company had no resources for assisting it.