Guest Post by Flipper on Pike River

November 24th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by commenter “Flipper:

“It is interesting that the media are ignoring the real implications of  the Pike River death dance by Cunliffe and his union cronies.

I suppose their ignorance is in part explained (or increased) by the fact that the New Zealand Herald has taken unto itself the right to be the standard bearer for Cunliffe on this issue.   It has done so to the point where two experienced columnists – Armstrong and O’Sullivan – have rallied to support their Editor (Currie) and his love affair with Cunliffe.  The stance adopted by both Armstrong and O’Sullivan recently, and again today,  is disappointing because it is yet another example of NZ Herald news manipulation.   This planned approach, covering all APNZ publications, was exposed by Whaleoil in his now famous “Hit job” report.   One sees the Herald’s support of Cunliffe’ s  crass exploitation of already hugely compensated  tragedy families from  Pike Mine as “pay- back” for a Government that “escaped” their planned assassination conspiracy on retirement homes.

But there is another, wider, issue that some folk have observed: the proclivity of the media, especially including Fairfax, TVs One and 3, and the Herald, to chase down blind alleys.   In the past year there have been numerous “expose” stories that were going, they said, to bring the Key Government down.  These have ranged from Dotcom, to GCSB, to Dunne, to Vance, to Fonterra, to Nova pay, to Hekia Parata, to the Christchurch schools, to Len Brown’s loopy rail plans, to a non-existent manufacturing crisis and a non- existent regional crisis, to Tiwai Smelter, to Graeme Wheeler’s LVRs – and even to Roast Busters and more. All were promoted and portrayed as “killer” blows.     Is Pike River another “blind alley”?

As November  2013 draws to a close it is clear that they were largely media promoted events that had very little impact on middle New Zealand – a New Zealand starting to enjoy the fruits of three/four years of pump grinding while Europe is still in a mess.   The polls do not support the garbage promoted by Armstrong, Currie, O’Sullivan, Gower, Watkins, Small, Vance, Wood, et al. They live in an esoteric world totally divorced from the reality in which real New Zealand lives and, now, prospers.     Good economic news of the kind that almost all of Europe would welcome is ignored.  It does not fit the frame (up) that the media wants to promote. Pity.

And that brings me back to Pike River.   Armstrong, Currie, and O’Sullivan are extremely foolish to persist in their pro Cunliffe stance.    Court awarded reparations are a bottomless pit – a hole in the ground – into which the taxpayer would be required to pour endless millions.  The Government designs roads. Faulty design causes accidents that kill drivers.  The CTV building collapses.  Who is responsible?  By the Armstrong/Currie/ O’Sullivan line, the taxpayers should pick up the tab for Pike River corporate fines because, in O’Sullivan’s words, and after receiving millions in compensation and aid, with many, many millions still to come, the Cunliffe promise of $3.4 million is just “a drop in the bucket”.   Your pontification O’Sullivan, is beneath any serious reporter.   But are you a reporter?  Or are you now an advocacy journalist, like Mazda Campbell?   It is time that Fran, John, and Shayne, sat down and re-thought their roles.

Pike River has been handled by the Government with care and dignity. The response on our behalf has been measured, but fair, and appropriately humane.   Could some things have been done better (think Policeman Knowles)?  Yep.      The Pike River death dance orchestrated by Cunliffe, with the support of some media, is a sign of  Cunliffe’ s desperation, his “war footing” cry having slipped to the very edge of the abyss.   Give it up.

My thoughts on Pike River is that if Cunliffe seriously thinks the Government should pay, than why not have the parties that were in Government pay, rather than us poor innocent taxpayers. Regulatory problems happened under both Labour and National Governments. It is easy for Cunliffe to declare that taxpayers should pay, but why should we pay for mistakes made by the Government he was part of.

So why doesn’t Cunliffe pledge $1.5 million to be paid to Pike River families from the Labour parliamentary budget, and call on National to do the same. Would that not be fairer that asking for taxpayers to pay?

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ACC to pay $20 million to Pike families

November 21st, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young reports:

Mr English said that about $5 million had so far been paid by ACC to the families, on the same basis as any other family that suffers a workplace accident or death, and that the full support from ACC would amount to $20 million when paid.

This is why we have a no faults ACC system.

New Zealand Oil and Gas has already paid $25 million since the disaster for salaries, creditors and tunnel recovery. A resolution at its annual meeting in October to pay more was lost.

There are few companies that would voluntarily pay $25 million, when there was no legal reason for them to do so.

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Looks like Pike River mine will be entered

September 3rd, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Families of the 29 men killed in the Pike River blasts will be “relieved” by the Government’s decision on whether to support a plan to re-enter the mine, Prime Minister John Key says.

Cabinet today made its decision on whether to fund a plan for a staged re-entry of the coalmine, where the men’s bodies have been entombed since the fatal blasts in November 2010.

The plan was approved last week by the board of Solid Energy and the Government’s High Hazards Unit.

Mr Key said families would be briefed on the Cabinet decision before Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges made an announcement tomorrow.

“Whatever the outcome of that decision, yes, I think that they will be relieved that things are another step further along.

Sounds like it is a go.

The staged re-entry plan is designed to seal off the ventilation shaft in the mine’s main entry tunnel, known as the drift.

The mine will be pumped full of nitrogen to force out any methane gas and allow experts to walk down a 2.3km shaft to a rockfall.

Whether they can ever get past the rockfall is another issue!

UPDATE: It is a go.

The Government will fund a plan to re-enter and explore the main tunnel leading up to the rock fall in the Pike River Coal Mine.

Families of the 29 men killed in the mine nearly three years ago were briefed this morning.

Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges made the announcement this afternoon, putting the estimated cost of the plan at $7.2 million and said the chance of finding bodily remains in the tunnel was “slim”.

The plan announced today does not cover entry into the main mine workings which is blocked by the rock fall.

“The Government cannot comment or speculate about re-entering the main mine until the tunnel re-entry has been successfully achieved,” Bridges said.

On entering the mine proper, Bridges said he was personally sceptical.

There had been fires, explosions and floods, so it was likely the environment would probably be highly unstable.

I for one do not begrudge the cost.

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Pike River recovery

August 9th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour Minister Simon Bridges says he will not “muck around” in taking a Pike River recovery plan to the Cabinet.

Families of the 29 men killed in a series of explosions in the West Coast coalmine in 2010 are battling to retrieve the victims’ remains.

A plan to re-enter the mine to try to recover the bodies is believed to be close to being finalised, possibly as early as tomorrow morning.

It is understood the proposal would involve sealing off the top of the ventilation shaft and pumping the mine full of nitrogen, forcing out any methane gas and allowing miners to walk up the tunnel.

The proposal must be approved as safe by the board of mine owner Solid Energy, the High Hazards Unit of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and the Government.

Bridges said the Government would back a “technically credible” proposal.

Officials had been meeting every fortnight, he said.

“What I can tell you is that as soon as Solid Energy sign off a plan it will come to me, and I won’t muck around. I will be bringing that to Cabinet forthwith.”

If there is a credible, safe and practical plan for entry into the mine, that is an excellent thing. I am sure cost is not a factor – it is all about safety. The key thing is if both Solid energy and the HHU unit agree it is a safe and workable proposal. If they both agree, I would be surprised if it does not happen.

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Pike compensation

July 6th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government has paid no compensation to the families of the victims of the Pike River mine disaster, their lawyer, Nick Davidson QC, says.

This was in spite of apologies from the Government and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment over their contribution to the tragedy, he said.

“Nothing has been paid by the Government [to Pike victims]. Not at all.”

In comparison, Davidson said the Government paid out-of-court settlements over another West Coast disaster, Cave Creek, near Punakaiki.

In that case, the Department of Conservation was found to have acted illegally and negligently after the viewing platform collapsed on April 28, 1995, killing 13 Tai Poutini Polytech outdoor recreation students and a DOC manager, and injuring four other students.

The two cases are not comparable.

DOC was the owner of and responsible for the Cave Creek platform.

The Pike River company was the owner of the Pike River mine and responsible for the mine safety. The court has found they were at fault.

I have huge sympathy for the families of the Pike River victims. However I do not believe it would be a good precedent to have taxpayers responsible for the failings of private companies.

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A health and safety agency

February 23rd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Simon Bridges has announced:

The Government’s focus on significantly lifting New Zealand’s workplace health and safety record is behind the establishment of a new, stand-alone agency, says Labour Minister Simon Bridges.

The creation of a stand-alone Crown agent was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy.

“The new agency will have a dedicated focus on health and safety and underlines the Government’s strong commitment to addressing New Zealand’s workplace fatality and serious injury rates,” says Mr Bridges.

“We have a firm target of a 25 per cent reduction of these rates by 2020.

This was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission, and you expect the Government to implement all the recommendations unless there is a very good reason not to. The Pike River tragedy is a good example of what happens when there is an inadequate focus on health and safety.

Of course no workplace can be made free from risk, and nor should it be. Health and safety is always a balancing act. Otherwise we would engineer cars to not drive faster than 30 km/hr.

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A sensible step forward for Pike

January 10th, 2013 at 7:59 am by David Farrar

Deidre Mussen at Stuff reports:

John Key wrote to Solid Energy before Christmas saying a new expert panel was being set up to advise the Government on the feasibility of body recovery at the underground West Coast mine.

The men died after an explosion at the mine in November 2010.

Key had reiterated to Pike families at a meeting in Greymouth last month the Government was unlikely to fund body recovery because his experts said it was too dangerous and expensive.

However, he admitted the families were frustrated by his stance because their experts were more optimistic about it.

As a result, a panel of mining experts from diverse backgrounds, including from Solid Energy, Mines Rescue Trust, Pike families and the Government’s High Hazards Unit, would be brought together to try to get a consensus on whether it was possible plus its risks and costs.

Key wrote that he was “very keen for the families to have closure one way or another as soon as reasonably possible”.

He also confirmed the Government would pay for all out-of-pocket costs to explore the mine’s 2.3 kilometre tunnel, where some bodies might remain, if a viable plan was developed that the Government’s High Hazards Unit backed.

It included paying for the families’ international mining experts to return to New Zealand to meet other experts to develop a tunnel exploration plan.

Pike families were “ecstatic” with the prime minister’s offer.

“Certainly it’s a turnaround in that he is finally listening to us instead of sticking to his expert’s advice,” said Bernie Monk, who lost his son Michael, 23, in the fatal explosion.

I think the issue has been different experts have said different things. Paying to get them all together in one room, and seeing if they can agree on what can be safely done is a good thing.

Also useful to clarify that costs will be met by the Government in any tunnel exploration, even if not a full reclamation.

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EPMU and Pike River

November 13th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

This got covered by others last week, but worth a mention here. Steven Cowan at Against the Current blogs:

This statement represents a complete change of heart by the EPMU officialdom for it was never critical of  Pike River Coal (PRC) during the time that  the mine was open.   The EPMU represented approximately half of the 140 miners on the site. 

After the first explosion the EPMU strongly  defended the management of PRC. 

EPMU National secretary Andrew Little (now a Labour MP)  told the New Zealand Herald on November 22  2010 that   there was ‘nothing unusual about Pike River or this mine that we’ve been particularly concerned about‘.

He then appeared on TVNZ’s  Close Up  to again defend PRC management.

He told Close Up that underground mining was inherently unsafe and the risk of gas explosions, particularly on the West Coast, was high.

While the industry was aware of the risks and took the necessary precautions, unfortunately these kinds of incidents still happened, he argued.

And further:

On November 26, 2010 the Dominion Post  ran an article that   denounced  ‘wild’  rumours that the mine was not safe. It declared  that  “Any suggestion of obvious or known safety lapses does not find traction with unionised staff or union leader Andrew Little.’

Andrew Little’s conciliatory views toward  PRC management were echoed by Labour MP Damien O’Connor. He suggested that no one was responsible for the accident and that the  disaster was ‘just one of these things that the West Coast unfortunately has had to get used to over the years’. …

But despite the overwhelming evidence that there was  something seriously and dangerously wrong at the Pike Rive rnine, the officials of the  EPMU did nothing. 

The mine opened in November 2008  and on not  one occasion did the EPMU  initiate   industrial action or even  criticise PRC’S  safety standards, even after a group of workers  walked off the job to protest the lack of basic emergency equipment.

The walk out by miners was revealed by miner  Brent Forrester. He  told TVNZ’s Sunday  on December 5 2010 that  he once helped organise a walkout of about 10 miners to protest the lack of basic emergency equipment, including stretchers and an emergency transport vehicle. They received no support from the EPMU .  Andrew Little  even insisted that  PRC ‘ had a good health and safety committee that’s been very active.’

It was exactly this benevolent attitude  by the EPMU that allowed PRC – and the Department of Labour – to continue as if it was just ‘business a usual’. It appears that no-one was  protecting the interests and concerns of the workers on the mining site.  The EMPU failed to organise industrial action  to address safety concerns  at the  mine in favour of  ‘cooperating’ with management, what it and the CTU sometimes  refer to as ‘modern unionism’.

There won’t be any resignations from within the EPMU for dereliction of duty and, of course, Andrew Little  has escaped to Parliament.

I think the Royal Commissions recommendations should be implemented, unless there are massively good reasons not to. But it is worth noting that the suggestion that union sift inspectors would have prevented this tragedy may be more wishful thinking than reality.

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Damien says Solid Energy to blame for Pike River!

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

NZ Herald reports:

Solid Energy is largely to blame for the “dumbing down” of mining industry standards that allowed the Pike River 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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Armstrong on Pike River

November 6th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes:

In its most damning criticism, the Commission says Wilkinson’s department should have prohibited Pike from operating the mine until its health and safety systems were adequate.

Given the mine opened in November 2008 – just a month before Wilkinson became Minister of Labour – there would have been demands for her resignation as her department’s woeful performance happened on her watch.

Certainly the mine did operate during her watch, and she has resigned. But the interesting thing is that Armstrong has reported that the Department of Labour should never ever have allowed Pike River to start operating.

The Minister, when it did start operating, was Trevor Mallard – not Kate Wilkinson.

Now I say this not do do a blame game. I don’t think either Mallard or Wilkinson are to blame. And I think David Shearer’s statement that Labour accepts responsibility for their period in Government was the right thing to do, as was the PM’s apology for the failings of the current Government for the lack of oversight. But it is an important fact that the report finds the mine should never have been allowed to open.

Where this goes now is in two directions.

The first is the Government’s formal response to the recommendations.

The second is the prosecutions of Pike River Coal and certain former managers. The findings of the Royal Commission are incredibly damning with regard to them.

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Pike River Report and Wilkinson resigns

November 5th, 2012 at 4:04 pm by David Farrar

Just heard that Kate Wilkinson has resigned as Minister of Labour as the “right and honourable thing to do” as it happened on her watch. Indeed an honourable call.

The report is here, NBR has a good summary:

  • Setting up a new crown agency solely focused on health and safety. It would have an executive board accountable to a minister. It would be responsible for administering health and safety in line with strategies agreed with the responsible minister and should provide policy advice to the minister.
  • Setting up an effective regulatory framework for underground coal mining. This would include establishing an expert task force to carry out the work. Its members would include health and safety experts and industry, regulator and worker health and safety representatives, supported by specialist technical experts.
  • A change in the crown minerals regime to ensure health and safety is an integral part of permit allocation and monitoring.
  • A review of the statutory responsibilities of directors for health and safety in the workplace to better reflect their governance responsibilities.
  • The health and safety regulator should issue an approved code of practice to guide directors on how good governance practices can be used to manage health and safety risks.
  • The health and safety regulator should issue an approved code of practice to guide managers on health and safety risks, drawing on both their legal responsibilities and best practice.
  • An extension of the current regulations imposing general health and safety duties on the statutory mine manager to include detailed responsibilities for overseeing critical features of the company’s health and safety management systems.
  • Worker participation in health and safety in underground coal mines should be improved through legislative and administrative changes.
  • The regulator should supervise the granting of mining qualifications to mining managers and workers.
  • Urgent attention needs to go on emergency management in underground coal mines. Operators should be required to have a current and comprehensive emergency management plan which is audited and tested regularly.
  • An urgent review of the implementation of the coordinated incident management system in underground coal mine emergencies.
  • Legislative support for the activities of the New Zealand Mines Rescue Service. The adequacy and fairness of the current levies imposed on the mines to fund the services also need to be reviewed.
  • Operators of underground coal mines should be required to have modern equipment and facilities. This includes facilities suitable for self-rescue by workers during an emergency.

The Government has indicated it intends to implement at least most, if not all, of the recommendations but a formal response will take some time.

The Pike River explosion was deemed preventable, and we must make sure such a terrible accident does not occur again.

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No recovery for Pike

May 30th, 2012 at 2:27 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports that the families of those who died in the Pike River mine explosion have accepted it would risk further people dying to attempt a recovery of the bodies.

This is very sad for the families concerned but there may be a silver lining in that they will at least have some certainity. It is good that Solid Energy arranged for them to talk through all the issues around any recovery with the experts.

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Pike River sold

March 9th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

 Pike River Coal has been sold to state-owned enterprise Solid Energy under a conditional agreement, receivers for the mine said today.

The receivers said they have reached agreement with Solid Energy New Zealand for the sale of the assets of Pike River Coal. …

”We, as the receivers, are pleased with this agreement as we consider it the best way forward for all parties. As part of the agreement, negotiations will continue with the Crown to establish a trust that will help oversee efforts to enter the main area of the mine and facilitate body recovery – if it is safe and technically feasible.

”In the meantime, work on the tunnel reclamation is continuing. We will provide further updates as appropriate,” Fisk added.

I suspect the families of the dead miners will be pleased with this sale, as Solid Energy has publicly committed to doing what it can to recover the bodies. The Government had said it would make recovery of the bodies a condition of transferring the mining licence, so this may be why other parties did not bid for the mine in the end.

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Appalling

February 15th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Deidre Mussen at The Press reports:

Pike River’s mine manager job-hunted in the minutes after its fatal November 2010 explosion despite knowing power and communications had been lost, the inquiry into the deaths of 29 men has heard.

His revelation prompted one of the dead men’s mothers to call out: “This is while my boy was dying, Jesus Christ,” before she fled in tears from the royal commission into the tragedy.

Former general manager Doug White began giving evidence in Greymouth District Court yesterday, his second time in the inquiry’s witness stand.

Commission lawyer Simon Mount said White emailed two people at 4.02pm and 4.03pm on November 19, 2010, less than 15 minutes after being told communication and power had been lost to the underground West Coast mine. It exploded at 3.45pm that day.

He was the mine general manager and he had been told the mine had lost power and communications, and he carried on with his e-mail!

I would have thought the general manager would immediately drop everything else, and personally co-ordinate the efforts to establish what has happened in the mine. A loss of power and communications is no minor incident.

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Pike River recovery

January 28th, 2012 at 3:08 pm by David Farrar

Michael Daly at Stuff reports:

Recovery of the bodies of the men killed in the Pike River Coal mine disaster is not expected to be completed for at least 3 1/2 years, a new independent report says.

The estimates in the draft independent review by engineer Bruce McLean depend on a successful sale of the mine.

Even with a sale, the report does not expect recovery of the bodies until some time between July 2015 and June 2017.

That timetable depends on the completion of a new shaft or tunnel to establish a ventilation circuit by June 2014.

This report or review was commissioned by the families of the dead miners. While the conclusions are probably not the ones they hoped for, it is good they agree with the advice from the receivers and the Government that one can’t just rush in them in a matter of weeks or months.

The fact the Government won’t consent to a transfer of the license unless the new owner agrees to do best efforts to recover the bodies means that eventually they will recover the bodies or remains, I believe. It will be important closure for the families.

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Pike River

November 10th, 2011 at 4:20 pm by David Farrar

Herald reports:

The Department of Labour has laid charges against three parties in relation to alleged health and safety failures at the Pike River coal mine, where 29 miners died after an explosion almost a year ago.

25 charges were laid at the Greymouth District Court this morning, but the charges have not been specified because they could lead to the identification of the parties involved.

“They either have existing name suppression orders in their favour, or have the right to apply for name suppression,” the Department said in a press release issued this afternoon.

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of $250,000.

This is no surprise to those who have been following the Royal Commission. The prosecutions will not bring the men back of course, but may provide some accountability for the tragic loss of life. Of course the charges must be proven in court, and assuming guilty pleas are not entered, we’ll have a trial at some stage.

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Labour’s latest campaign tactic

October 18th, 2011 at 5:50 pm by David Farrar

This was posted to Facebook today by the Labour Party candidate for Rodney – Christine Rose.

 

So John Key didn’t only arrange the H Fee, he also blew up the Pike River mine, arranged the earthquakes and was the pilot of the Rena.

Again, this is a Labour Party candidate, not just an activist, who approvingly Facebooked this photo. Is this who you want in Government?

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Pike River

September 8th, 2011 at 6:27 am by David Farrar

I’ve not been commenting on most of the evidence at the Pike River Royal Commission because it is the Commission’s job to come to conclusions based on the evidence.

But I have to say that on the basis of reports to date, I’ve been horrified by some of the evidence. No trial evacuations, lack of escape routes, the fact it took 45 minutes to even realise there had been an explosion, no answer on the emergency line, safety equipment not working. It must be horrific for the families to be hearing this evidence.

Also chilling has been the strength of the explosions. The Press reported:

Footage of three subsequent explosions at Pike River mine was also shown at the inquiry yesterday, including the second explosion at 2.36pm on November 24, which ended all hopes of the men’s survival.

White said the second explosion was of greater magnitude than the first, and blew a 300-kilogram robot inside the mine more than 100m.

My physics is too rusty to calculate what level of energy is needed to move a 300 kg object over 100 metres, but my gut reaction is absolutely unsurvivable. If the first explosion was anything like the second, then those down the mine hopefully died quickly. I guess this will be a key issue the Commission will form a view on.

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Pike River

May 23rd, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Michael Dickison in the NZ Herald reports:

The Pike River mining disaster being cited by a union boss as an example of an anti-worker culture is “churlish”, says the Prime Minister.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly told the Labour Party Congress yesterday that Pike River had “failed in its fundamental duty to provide a safe workplace” yet was initially protected from scrutiny by the state.

She noted how John Key had sat next to Pike River’s chief executive during the memorial service.

Mr Key said last night that Ms Kelly was being “churlish” – and dangerous, too, considering that a Royal Commission of Inquiry was ongoing.

“For Helen Kelly to make those comments until we know what actually happened in that mine is inappropriate in my view. It’s getting in the way of the royal commission.”

The memorial had been a time for everyone to grieve rather than to apportion blame, Mr Key said.

“That day may well come, depending on the results of the royal commission, but it wasn’t appropriate at the time when we held a memorial service.”

 It was a bizarre rant from Helen Kelly. She seemed upset that Pike River executives were not immediately tarred and feathered and made into national villians.

As the PM says, she doesn’t seem to realise the difference between a time to mourn and a time to find out what happened, and who is to blame.

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Open cast mining at Pike River

March 15th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

State-owned Solid Energy, if successful with a bid, would probably look to develop the mine in a joint opencast/underground approach. It would need to get part of the surrounding land removed from schedule 4 protected conservation land for opencast mining. Access would be difficult and so would resource conditions.

If Solid Energy do buy Pike River, I hope the Government does make it possible for them to carry on mining there, in the safest way possible. If that means moving a couple of hectares out of Schedule 4, then so be it.

Rodney Hide at the weekend seemed to have ESP with his call:

ACT leader Rodney Hide is calling for open-cast mining at Pike River and on protected conservation land.

State-owned Solid Energy should be allowed to open-cast mine Pike River, to access an estimated $10 billion of resources, he said. “It seems to me it will require a great deal of care and sensitivity. But I can’t see how not continuing their [the miner's] work respects them.” …

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn backed Mr Hide’s call for open-cast mining at Pike River.

“Yeah, Rodney Hide is correct. We need to get on with it and we need to do it in a way that will safeguard the environment and at the same time get economic development.”

It looks like it might happen, which is good.

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EPMU wants taxpayer funding

February 15th, 2011 at 2:07 pm by David Farrar

The EPMU has done a release saying:

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), which is the union that represents miners, is calling on the government to provide support for its legal representation in the Pike River Royal Commission of Inquiry.

The call follows the government’s announcement it will now fund families’ and contractors’ legal representation costs to allow them to participate in the inquiry.

The EPMU has around $13 million of assets and a turnover of around $12 million a year. They are in a totally different situation to individual famuilies and contractors. A legal bill of say $100,000 is a mere 1% of the EPMU’s annual turnover, yet would bankrupt many contractors and be well beyond what a West Coast family could afford.

Incidentially the EPMU has skilled in house lawyers such as their national secretary. If he wasn’t so busy running the Labour Party and running for Parliament, perhaps he could represent the EPMU at the Royal Commission hearings as part of his job.

It is of course up to the EPMU how they decide to interact with the Royal Commission, but if they start to ask for taxpayer funding, them we get the right to have a view on that.

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Pike River Assistance

February 15th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

John Hartevelt reports:

Financial help for legal costs will be extended to all 150 Pike River miners and contractors who were employed when 29 men died at the mine last year.

Prime Minister John Key said surviving miners and contractors would have a crucial role in the Royal Commission of Inquiry. The Government had agreed to cover their legal costs.

Cabinet had already agreed to provide legal assistance to the families of those who died at the Pike River mine.

Today’s announcement was over and above that because it extended legal assistance to some of the 150 workers and contractors who might be required to contribute to the Royal Commission.

I doubt many would disagree with this decision. Generally I would not expect those who don’t face potential liability or criticism to need legal assistance or representation at the Royal Commission, but it would be harsh to make surviving miners etc pay for their own legal assistance.

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Died within minutes

January 27th, 2011 at 6:10 pm by David Farrar

The Chief Coroner has found that the 29 dead miners in Pike River died within minutes of the initial explosion. While not the final word on the disaster, it is reassuring to family and friends that any suffering was relatively brief.

Chief Coroner Neil MacLean found the Pike River miners would have died either from the impact of the blast or from the poisonous atmosphere it created in the mine.

Evidence showed those that survived the explosion would have lost consciousness and died from hypoxic hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, within minutes, he said.

The focus will soon shift to the Royal Commission.

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Dave Feickert

January 21st, 2011 at 3:35 pm by David Farrar

Stuff is running an NZPA story:

The tragedy at the Pike River Coal mine would not have happened if New Zealand had maintained a mining inspector programme canned more than a decade ago, a mining specialist says.

A chief inspector would have noticed the dangerous levels of gases pooling at the West Coast mine, and the 29 men who died in explosions from November 19 on would still be alive.

Safety officials do monitor mines around the country, but the system was inferior to the inspector system that was used until the late 1990s, Dave Feickert said.

I am automatically suspicious of any so called expert who without any evidence at all claims the mine explosion would not have happened if x had been done. Considering we have a Royal Commission about to hear actual evidence on what caused the explosion, you wonder about the motives of someone who states opinion as fact.

It was not right that Prime Minister John Key was making decisions about mine safety because he was not an expert in the area, Mr Feickert said.

“No wonder the families of the 29 dead are furious. So they should be.”

I get even more suspicious when this expert makes a personal attack on the PM which is factually incorrect (Key has not made any decisions), and is encouraging the families to blame John Key.

Then a birdie from Whanganui tells me that Mr Feickert is in fact the Chairman of the Whanganui Labour Party. Suddenly it all makes sense.

A google search has not verified he is currently a Labour Party Chairman, but what it does reveal is that Feickert is:

  • a former top official in the militant British National Union of Mineworkers
  • the CTU unions Wanganui secretary
  • a member of the NZ Labour Party
  • supported Arthur Scargill in 1984 UK strikes

This is not to say that Feickert does not know a lot about mining. He does. But by not reporting he is a militant unionist and labour party office holder, then people don’t understand the context of why he is attacking John Key on false grounds.

UPDATE: Now confirmed that Feickert is (or at least was earlier this year) Labour’s Whanganui chairman.

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Should have happened at the beginning

January 19th, 2011 at 9:26 am by David Farrar

Amy Glass at Stuff reports:

Police heading the Pike River operation have agreed to release documents detailing why they decided to abandon their efforts, a lawyer for some of the families says.

Barrister Nicholas Davidson QC said yesterday Police Commissioner Howard Broad had said the information would include reports and the advice police had received from experts and the Mines Rescue Trust.

“For the first time, we will be able to take that material and consult with our experts,” Davidson said.

I am surprised that this is only happening now. In my opinion it would have been far more sensible of the Police to have shared these reports with the families before they made a decision, ask the families for any feedback on the reports and then make a decision. Then at least you would have families being able to understand the rationale for the decision.

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