29 Nov 2010

Mine inquiry will be extensive, says lawyer

3:46 pm on 29 November 2010

A lawyer involved in the inquiry into the Cave Creek tragedy says the establishment of a Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal mine would show families of the 29 workers that the disaster is being taken seriously.

Speaking before the Government on Monday afternoon announced the inquiry, lawyer Grant Cameron said such an inquiry could start with a photocopy of the terms of reference of the Commission of Inquiry on the 1995 Cave Creek deaths.

Mr Cameron told Morning Report the inquiry would have to conduct a factual investigation, compare the best practices of coal mines around the world to that used at the Pike River mine, and examine the rescue effort.

"There will also have to be consideration of possible changes to the law so that we finally end up with a situation where coal mines in this country might be not only meeting best practice, but perhaps even setting the standard."

Friends of some Pike River families have been in touch with Mr Cameron but he has no formal instructions, he says.

Wider impact

The New Zealand chair of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Cam Wylie, told Nine to Noon the inquiry will not only have findings on the specific incident, but will have an impact on how the industry as a whole carries out underground mining.

Mr Wylie says it is part of the industry's culture to review all incidents.

Inquiry will ensure scrutiny, says union

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary Andrew Little said the inquiry would ensure independent scrutiny.

Mr Little told Nine to Noon New Zealand has a track record of carrying out underground mining safely and the industry should not be written off until an inquiry has been held.

He described the Pike River disaster as an extraordinary, catastrophic event.

Law Commission president Sir Geoffrey Palmer says while recommendations made would not be binding, they would be hard for the Government to ignore.

Lawyer Mai Chen says Pike River Coal may be prevented from operating until the inquiry is completed, and it could be years before the company could resume mining.