Charges laid over Pike River mine blast

By Jarrod Booker, Herald Online

The entrance to the Pike River Coal mine. Photo / APN
The entrance to the Pike River Coal mine. Photo / APN

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.

Spokesman for the mine victims' families, Bernie Monk, is overseas and said there was little he could say without more detail of the charges and the parties involved.

Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn said it was important to have accountability.

"No-one has gone out to kill anyone or cause an explosion, but at the end of the day it did happen. Somebody has to be accountable for something like this or otherwise how can we learn?"

"It's unfortunate, but that's the process."

Mr Kokshoorn hit out at the suppression orders relating to the charges, saying speculation was already running rife on the West Coast and parties not involved were getting caught up in it.

But lawyer for the families, Nicholas Davidson QC, doubted there would be any sense of satisfaction for the families.

Having people held accountable was secondary to finding out the full facts of what occurred at the mine last November, he said.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the mine tragedy is set to get underway again on Monday, with the latest phase exploring what happened at the mine.

"We hope (the charges) won't actually impede the commission and its work. We are determined the process will continue," Mr Davidson said.

He said an order was made in court to suppress details of anyone charged when the Department of Labour sought a time extension for its investigation into the mine tragedy.

- NZHERALD ONLINE

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