Pike River directors reject safety report

Mines Rescue staff enter the Pike River Mine for the first time since the mine explosions which killed 29 workers. Photo / File photo
Mines Rescue staff enter the Pike River Mine for the first time since the mine explosions which killed 29 workers. Photo / File photo

The former directors of Pike River Coal have rejected the suggestion by the Royal Commission the company prioritised profits over worker safety.

The Royal Commission released its findings into the mine disaster earlier this month, slamming management for not properly assessing the health and safety risks its workforce was facing.

The November 19, 2010 explosion and subsequent blasts in the West Coast mine claimed the lives of 29 men.

Read volume one of the full Royal Commission report here. Volume two here.

Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, lawyers for John Dow, Ray Meyer and Stuart Nattrass, who were directors of the company at the time of the blasts, have issued a statement on behalf of their clients in response to the commission's findings.

In particular, the directors "strongly disagree" with the suggestion the company prioritised production over the safety of its workers.

"Our clients consider that the Commission's view appears to be based only upon conjecture or impression, as despite the considerable amount of evidence made available to it, its report does not identify any particular circumstances, or any documents, in which a safety requirement was not met for financial reasons or because it might have impacted upon production."

The statement said the commission did not seek any evidence from the company's financial staff or review the company's accounts or financial documents.

"The company's board never rejected a health and safety request on financial grounds or because it might have impacted upon production and it was not aware of any unmet safety requirements."

They also said there has been "much comment, with the convenient benefit of hindsight, about operational matters and decisions at the mine," such as the location of the main fan underground.

The directors said all the aspects of the mine were known to many organisations, including the Department of Labour mine inspectors, Mines Rescue and the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, however no concerns were raised with the company's management prior to the disaster.

"Our clients reiterate their deep and personal regret for the loss of life at the mine," the statement said.

"They participated in the Commission's inquiry knowing that this would mean that their actions would be scrutinised, but wishing to assist the Commission, the families and the coal mining industry.

"They now welcome consideration and discussion of the Commission's recommendations for the future conduct of mining in New Zealand."

Read more: Pike River: 'Unrelenting picture of failure'

- nzherald.co.nz

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