Radio NZ reports:
Saturday was the sixth anniversary of the tragedy at the West Coast mine, in which 29 men died.
Solid Energy bought the mine assets four years ago. It began work today to permanently seal the mine, saying it had to meet its deadline, set by WorkSafe, to seal the mine by the end of the month.
I would have thought that the lesson of Pike River is that safety should be paramount.
In a strongly worded statement released earlier today, Solid Energy hit out at “inaccurate and misleading statements in the media”, saying they were feeding “false hope”.
“It is disingenuous and, frankly, deeply disappointing for commentators who lack the full information base on which this decision was made – and who bear no legal responsibility for the outcomes of the re-entry project – to once again raise hopes regarding re-entry,” the statement said.
The company said its decision was based on an exhaustive investigation into the feasibility of safe re-entry and was backed by the independent expertise of Emeritus Professor Jim Galvin – a professor of mining engineering at the University of New South Wales and an internationally recognised expert in underground coal mining risk management.
I understand why the families want to cling to hope that the mine can be entered, but hope is not a good enough basis to risk further lives.
The decision to seal the mine was announced in 2014, and nothing has changed since then.
But Solid Energy said there had been no material improvements in the conditions in the drift since the decision was made to seal the mine in November 2014.
“The reality is that for the entire time since Solid Energy took over Pike Rive Mine in 2012, the drift has been full of nearly pure methane. There is no report that shows that gas levels have reduced.
“There are no recent tests that show the seal is unnecessary. In fact, our continuous monitoring shows that methane remains at around 98 percent and is continually being released into the mine and the drift,” it said.
If the mine is 98% methane, it is basically a huge poisonous bomb.
The directors said, while they had deep sympathy for the families of the 29 men, responsibility for any re-entry rested with its directors and the risk of endangering more lives was not one they wanted to take.
“The fact remains that the legal responsibility for the safely of any re-entry remains with the directors of Solid Energy. Solid Energy did not own the mine at the time of the explosions.
“While we have deep sympathy for the position of the families, the directors’ decision is entirely motivated by our responsibility for the safety of the site and nay person entering the mine. The risk of endangering more lives is not a risk we believe should be taken.”
The loss of family members was terrible for Pike families. I sympathize with their loss. But sympathy is not a good enough reason to risk further life.