Damien says Solid Energy to blame for Pike River!

November 8th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

NZ Herald reports:

is largely to blame for the “dumbing down” of mining industry standards that allowed the disaster to happen, West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O’Connor says.

So does that mean Qantas was responsible for Erebus?

Solid Energy’s general manager of communications Vicki Blyth said she was shocked by Mr O’Connor’s comments.

“It’s appalling to suggest that Solid Energy is in any way to blame for what happened at Pike River.”

Ms Blyth said Solid Energy had benchmarked itself against international best practice for some time. It had made submissions to the previous review of mining regulations.

“That’s what we submitted to the Royal Commission. We fully support the recommendations and the commission’s proposals.”

A somewhat bizarre attack on Solid Energy.

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18 Responses to “Damien says Solid Energy to blame for Pike River!”

  1. RRM (9,833 comments) says:

    DPF – for some reason you left out of your quote, the bit where he kinda explains his thinking behind this allegation fairly clearly:

    “The genesis of this whole disaster, and the dumbing down of standards across the mining industry, were promoted and pushed by Solid Energy as the single biggest underground miner in the country off the back of a government that was determined to deregulate everything from housing, to mining, to electricity in the 1990s,” Mr O’Connor said.

    “As the single largest underground coal mining company working through the 90s and into the 2000s, they worked directly with the Department of Labour to accept these inadequate, inferior and dangerous standards

    “They were very much part of the whole destruction of coal mining safety and standards through the 90s, as the report on Spring Creek Mine, and the actions at Stockton, have obviously shown.”

    I have no idea if this is true or not… if it is true, then it’s not really very much like blaming Qantas for the Erebus disaster at all is it?

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  2. East Wellington Superhero (1,151 comments) says:

    Have any of these idiots read the report? I doubt it.

    Let me quote the Royal Commission’s report:
    “An insurance risk survey received in July 2010 identified serious concerns about the hazards posed by hydro mining, windblast and a gas explosion, and urged the need for a comprehensive risk assessment of the mining operation. Neither the board nor its committee saw the report. The mine manager attended a board meeting four days before the explosion and told the directors that gas management was ‘more a nuisance and daily operational consideration than a significant problem or barrier to operations’. The board was not well placed to assess this assurance. The board did not verify that effective systems were in place and that risk management was effective.” Pg 18 Vol 1

    This was a fuck-up that had nothing to do with regulations. Methane plus oxygen equals combustion. Which equals closure of any mine which equals loss of investment. Even from a cynical perspective where physical assets are more important than people this was folly by the directors.

    O’Conner is a politician.

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  3. thedavincimode (6,704 comments) says:

    RRM

    Bit of an own goal though in inferring the Liabwhore Ministerial responsibility thru the Labour Dept participation.

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  4. thedavincimode (6,704 comments) says:

    … but hangon, wasn’t O’Connor living on and MP for the West Coast throughout this period … OMG … then it must be his fault too …zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    He should have invested the time he spent trying to chop down the beech forests in checking out Pike River …

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  5. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    Dont be so short sighted Thedavincicode.

    I know in the building industry that the regulations were changed only because of the lobbying from the likes of CHH who wanted easier standards and wanted to be able to supply products for a higher profit (ie: cheaper to make and they came with a good story of how ‘superior’ they were – so they could rack up the sell price. In fact they were just shit).

    So I have no doubt that the bigger players in the mining industry did exactly the same when the mining regulations were up for altering – ie: they wanted easier standards to meet. Usually easier means lower…………….

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  6. davidp (3,580 comments) says:

    Damien O’Connor has been a West Coast based MP since 1993. That includes the period that he was referring to as being when Solid Energy and the Department of Labour allegedly reduced mining standards. It also includes the nine years of the Clark government and the opening of the Pike River mine. During all that time, did any of his constituents or the mining trade union raise any safety concerns with him? If so, did he raise those concerns with the minister, with the Department of Labour, or with Prime Minister Helen Clark? What replies did he receive? If he didn’t raise those concerns with anyone, then why did he sit on the information? Lastly, if none of his constituents ever raised safety concerns with him then why would a few Department of Labour mine inspectors be expected to pick up on issues that thousands of West Coast miners and their union hadn’t detected?

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  7. Manolo (13,579 comments) says:

    Paraphrasing comrade Clark: Feral comments from a feral.

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  8. David Garrett (7,110 comments) says:

    davidp” Excellent post. This is politicking of the worse kind. A back bench MP who knows he will never get a Ministerial position again as long as Grant Robertson is gay, desparate for ANY publicity he can get…

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  9. wreck1080 (3,883 comments) says:

    If solid energy had been campaigning for less safety checks or changes that eventuated in less safety checks and that less safety checks contributed to pike river then isn’t it a reasonable statement?

    Whether or not the assumptions are true is the question.

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  10. MT_Tinman (3,130 comments) says:

    Mr O’Connor’s outfit had nine years to correct any problems caused by 1990s government policies.

    Don’t peoples’ lives matter to Mr O’connor’s party?

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  11. East Wellington Superhero (1,151 comments) says:

    @ barry

    You are probably right.

    But Pike River wasn’t because of regulation screw-ups. It was that directors didn’t do their basic job.

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  12. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    No – youre wrong “East Wellington Superhero”

    the old regulations had outside inspectors who could close the mine on the spot.

    The new regualtions were all about self regulation.

    Now – thats like expecting the beer companies to sell less beer when they are under the “self regulation” regime.

    To believe that means one would be of very weak brainpower.

    Self regulation has never worked when it conscerns the conflict of safety versus profit (or reduced cost)

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  13. Komata (1,178 comments) says:

    Apropos Mr O’Connor’s comments regarding the safety aspect at Pike River. It would seem that the fault lies with the National Party government which abolished the position of Mines Inspector around 1990. The rationale at the time for the abolition of this very long-standing post was that the Inspectors weren’t necessary and that the industry has assured the Minister it that they could self-monitor. Solid Energy (being a coal mining organisation (aka ‘Coal Corp’) didn’t make the rules BTW, like all other mining operators it was told what was to happen by the Mines Department (as it then was), acting in turn on instructions from the Minister. Those who warned against the folly of such a move (the Mines Inspectors being very experienced and senior mining men, NOT appointed by the miners themselves so that they could act from a position of neutrality, and impartiality) were viewed as nay-sayer’s and anti-progress. Whether this was the case or not can be debated. However, for Mr O’Connor to have lived on the ‘Coast since 1993, have resided in a mining community for that time without comment about any safety matters and only now have suddenly become ‘concerned’ is at best grandstanding and, at worst, hypocritical. It is also very unfair to Solid Energy as that organisation is only ONE part of the Ministry of Economic Development’s ‘Crown Mineral’s Estate’, and is as subject to regulation as anyone else, a fact that Mr O’Connor, despite having lived in the area seems to have very ‘conveniently’ forgotten; but hey, since when did the facts get in the way of political point-scoring, especially when it may just gain him and ‘The Party’ some votes. Sad really. . .

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  14. flipper (3,981 comments) says:

    Ahhhhhhhh…..
    But, and I had not thought of this before, Solid Energy as the owners of Pike River may now be responsible for that company’s actions/failures.

    ACC legislation explictly prohibits any action for damages —-unless…and someine like FES can outline the specific wording in the legislation — they can establish that there was careless or delibverate disregard (words tyo similkarf effect)…. “deliberate negligence” ….

    THAT WOULD MAKE SOLID ENERGY (aka Government) LIABLE FOR PUNITIVE DAMAGES, WOULD IT NOT????
    So…..
    Are we to see suvh a legal move now the Royal Commisdsion has reported…and so on ??????

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  15. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    Oh – and if you really want to get a glimpse of just how self regulation works when the shit really hits the fan – just review the Justice Mahan report re the Air NZ Erebus crash.

    See how the company behaves when they were tested with the ultimate challenge. They lied and withdrew evidence and tried every trick in the book to deny their involvement.

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  16. Komata (1,178 comments) says:

    Flipper

    Re: ‘THAT WOULD MAKE SOLID ENERGY (aka Government) LIABLE FOR PUNITIVE DAMAGES, WOULD IT NOT????
    So…..’

    I would doubt it, as at the time of the explosion, Solid Energy were not the owners of the mine; Pike River Mining Co Ltd was. Where Solid Energy (SO) have become involved with the whole sorry sage is as CURRENT owners, not the owners at the time that the accident occurred. As a result, legally SO don’t have to do anything at all about body-recovery and could deny all and any responsibility or need to care. They have been unwittingly sucked in to the problem, which is definitely not of their making, and being a Government organisation (and following the orders that have been given to them from above) they won’t of course ‘walk away’ and will be villified when they don’t move as quickly as certain grandstanding individuals believe they should. Definitely a case of ‘being dropped in it’.

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  17. Sponge (160 comments) says:

    @RRM “I have no idea if this is true or not… if it is true”

    Its true. I worked for CoalCorp and later Solid Energy and while it was not a deliberate attempt to reduce safety standards it was a deliberate attempt to reduce costs. Also, in fairness, it was not just Solid Energy – it was everyone in the industry at the time.

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  18. Liberty (261 comments) says:

    Damien O’Connor is being hypercritical with his moralistic rant for Wilkinson to resign
    from cabinet.
    He should of resigned after his department gave a child a one way ticket in a prison van.

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