Little compo for Pike families 'unjust'

10:31 pm on 4 July 2013

There appears to be no chance that any meaningful fine or compensation will be paid over a the Pike River mine disaster. The revelation came during the sentencing hearing of Pike River Coal Ltd at the Greymouth District Court on Thursday.

The company has been convicted of failing to ensure the safety of the 29 men who died following a series of explosions that began at the West Coast mine on 19 November 2010.

It has been revealed that Pike River Coal Ltd, which is in receivership, only has $156,000 left from an insurance payout.

Judge Jane Farrish said it was morally unjust that the company had been able to wind itself up soon after the disaster, while the families and the two men who survived the blasts were left with nothing.

"I agree with some of the sentiments expressed in the victim impact reports that it's morally and quite unjust, not immorally unjust, ... that this company can within a month of the incident occurring basically shut up shop and walk away without providing in any way for the men and their families who've died."

However, the judge said a case could still be made for ordering a fine and reparations because of the deterrent effect this would have. She will deliver her sentence on Friday.

The families of the men killed finally got their day in court and were allowed to describe how the disaster continues to affect them.

Cath Monk, who lost her son Michael, told the court she is disgusted that there has still not been an apology from anyone at Pike River Coal Ltd and that nobody has been held accountable.

Fighting back tears, she said she has been robbed of the chance to see her son get married and hold his children in her arms. Ms Monk said it was hard to accept that such little value could be placed on the lives of the 29 men.

Pike River Coal charges

Pike River Coal Ltd has been convicted of nine health and safety charges over the disaster.

They include failing to properly monitor and manage methane gas released during the mining process, failing to safely ventilate the mine, and failing to take all steps to prevent the gas igniting.

It has also been found guilty of failing to take account of the mine's geology which led to part of the roof collapsing. This resulted in large quantities of methane being released which is believed to be the most likely cause of the fatal explosion.

Each of the charges carries a maximum penalty of a $250,000 fine.