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Herald on Sunday editorial: Allied Concrete made the right mine call

It's difficult for a business to take any decision that isn't directly related to the bottom line. In today's competitive environment, balancing the books is paramount - and for many it's not even about revenue but survival.

Allied Concrete this week put that aside in favour of a moral position. We should take note, and applaud.

The company was contracted to supply concrete to permanently seal the Pike River mine with the remains of 29 men inside. Faced at the scene with two women who lost men in the horrific 2010 tragedy, Allied - owned by HW Richardson - pulled out of the contract.

Chief executive Brent Esler said he did not want to inflame the "emotional trauma" the West Coast families were suffering. "As a family-owned business, [we are] very sympathetic to the families and the tragedy they've been through."

The difficulty is that six years since disaster struck, there is still a lack of clarity.

Mine owner Solid Energy said it was disappointed in Allied's decision. Its focus is on sealing the mine, which expert reports have said remains unsafe to re-enter.

But the grieving families have commissioned their own reports, which say the drift is safe to enter.

The uncertainty needs to be cleared before 29 families are forced to give up their fight.

Some will say it is time to let go - and it is a valid argument. But who could let go where there is a chance to have the farewell so dearly wanted? And who has the right to tell these families they should give up?

That might mean more experts' reports and more paperwork.

But the women who confronted Allied Concrete reminded us there is more to this than paperwork and the bottom line.

And Allied responded in the most human of ways.

Esler said he did not know the value of the contract, but the board did not take that into consideration when making its decision.

Sonya Rockhouse, whose son Ben was killed in the mine, spoke of her relief at the moral strength of Allied.

"All we want is the chance to go in and check before our boys and any evidence is sealed away forever."

And who would deny a mum that chance?

- Herald on Sunday

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