The former owner of the Black Reef coal mine in which a miner died last year told the Greymouth District Court yesterday he gave strict instructions to the new owners to stay clear of a flooded adjoining underground mine.
Ken Tiller said he had no recollection of a conversation he was supposed to have had with the new mine manager Gary Haddow about how best to mine the pit towards the west, and therefore closer to a known flooded mine. Mr Tiller appeared in court as part of a Department of Labour prosecution of Haddow and a consultant geologist, who have been charged in relation to the March 2006 death of coal miner Robert McGowan.
Mr McGowan, 39, died of impact and crush injuries on March 8, 2006, when the Black Reef Mine near Dunollie, 8km northeast of Greymouth, was engulfed by floodwaters and rock which had burst through from an adjoining mine abandoned since 1939.
Haddow survived the incident by leaping up and clinging to a peg on the wall for about 40 minutes until the waters subsided.
Haddow, 51, is charged with failing to ensure the safety of himself, Mr McGowan and another former miner, Lance McKenzie.
Black Reef Mine, formerly known as Tiller Mine, was sold to Shane Bocock in January 2005.
"I do not recall a conversation in regards to that [mining to the west]," Mr Tiller told the court. "All I may have said was to bore from the bottom to the top level."
To prosecutor Michael Hargreaves, Mr Tiller said that Mr Bocock had many discussions with him about how to mine the area.
"I also gave him strict instructions about not driving in the [flooded] Baddley Mine fault. It was imperative that they knew that."
He also stressed to Mr Bocock that he needed to employ an experienced mine manager and "be careful to read the signs, while working underground".
Haddow's lawyer Jeff McCall asked Mr Tiller if he remembered a number of conversations he had with his client about the mining practice.
"Mr Haddow started three weeks after I left," Mr Tiller said.
"I did not discuss any issues with him, although I discussed some things with Mr Bocock, who was purchasing the mine."
Mr McCall then referred him to view detailed parts of Haddow's diary, which he said clearly showed dates that the two had spoken on the phone and met at the mine.
Mr Tiller said he could not recall the mine visits or conversations, but he agreed they may have taken place.