Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

Pike River: Contractor to be sentenced

File photo / Simon Baker
File photo / Simon Baker

Pike River contractor Valley Longwall will be sentenced today for failing to ensure the safety of workers who died in explosions at the mine.

Three of the 29 men killed in the November 2010 blasts worked for the company, which was contracted to carry out work at the mine.

Valley Longwall International Drilling failed to ensure inspections and checks were done before allowing its workers to operate the drill rig prior to the explosions.

The company will be sentenced in Greymouth District Court today after earlier pleading guilty to three charges under Health and Safety in Employment Act.

Judge Jane Farish yesterday rejected a request by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to file victim impact statements in the case against Valley Longwall.

The ministry had requested the victim impact statements of the families of Ben Rockhouse, Joshua Ufer and Joseph Dunbar be read out.

But Judge Farish said the company's admitted failure did not in any way cause the mine explosion.

Today's sentencing comes a day after former Pike River Coal chief executive Peter Whittall pleaded not guilty to 12 charges over the explosions.

The charges relate to his actions regarding safety at the mine, including methane explosion management, strata management, ventilation management, and mitigating the risk and impact of an explosion.

In a statement outside court, Whittall yesterday reiterated his deep sorrow for the losses that the Pike River families suffered.

- APNZ

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