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Government misled families about Pike River

Written By: - Date published: 6:33 pm, April 30th, 2017 - 49 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, disaster, Mining, Politics, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: , ,

Someone, god bless them, has leaked video evidence taken in Pike River in 2011. The video shows a robot travelling 1500 metres along the infamous shift before its travel was blocked by a wagon. The robot then starts smoking somewhat alarmingly.

The way the Government described the state of the mine shaft one would think that there would be an immediate explosion once the smoke appeared. But nothing of the sort happened.

The theory that the site was unsafe and the atmosphere unstable is one that the Government has raised ever since the disaster happened. It appears that the Government has been, ahem, misleading us.

From 3news:

Video from inside Pike River shows a robot that appears to emit smoke or steam when it overheats, but there’s no fire or even a flame.

Police have kept the video, which was exclusively obtained by Newshub, from the families of killed miners.

But one relation who’s seen it says it shows going into the mine’s access tunnel is actually safe, and a mine expert agrees.

Dean Dunbar, father of deceased miner Joe Dunbar, is understandably upset. Again from 3news:

Until now, this video has been kept from the families of the 29 men killed, like Dean Dunbar, father of 17-year-old Joe Dunbar.

The footage is six years old, date-stamped March 15, 2011 – three months after the final explosion, and held by police ever since.

“How could they do this to Joseph and the other guys? Why?” Mr Dunbar says.

“They’ve had the footage; we haven’t.”

The Government, authorities and the mine’s controllers have always maintained it’s too dangerous to enter, which Mr Dunbar rejects.

“They created a situation of absolute danger; they made it look and sound explosive. It’s not,” he says.

“We’re going to peel back that litany of lies and expose it for what it is.

The police did not pass the video onto the families or the Royal Commission because “it was assessed as having no evidential value”.  The Government claims it has not seen the video.

Time to get google working and parse through all the statements made by the Government suggesting that it was too unsafe to enter the mine. Because it sounds like the miners families have been right and the government wrong.  All along.

49 comments on “Government misled families about Pike River”

  1. Sacha 1

    The police did not pass the video onto the families or the Royal Commission because “it was assessed as having no evidential value”.

    So some police prosecutor with no mining experience decided what counted as evidence? That part of their organisation has failed so many times surely it’s due for a clearout.

    The Government claims it has not seen the video.

    But they admit they knew it existed.

  2. adam 2

    This is morally repulsive.

    Forget left and right. Lets engage in wrong and right for a change.

  3. The video should have been made available to at least the Royal Commission.

    But it doesn’t necessarily prove that it would have been safe to re-enter, it only goes as far as a blockage (a loader) about 1.5 km into the access tunnel.

    And the robot, while getting further than another failed robot, overheated and failed at that point. The odds for robots wasn’t good, unless more went in and returned successfully.

    It would never have been and never will be totally safe to go right into the mine. The issue is whether what can possibly be found out is worth the risks.

    • mickysavage 3.1

      I disagree Pete it shows the atmosphere was inert as the Union and families claimed.

      A bigger robot could have moved the obstruction.

      • Muttonbird 3.1.1

        Pete reckons everyone should just give up on their causes.

        Pete thought that the Pike River families should not bother with their campaign because one elderly mother of a missing miner didn’t want to know about it any more.

        Pete has questioned the families’ motives behind their need for closure, suggesting they are political, not emotional.

        Pete is a man with no empathy for these families at all so I’m wondering why he continues commenting on the subject.

        • dukeofurl 3.1.1.1

          Its never totally safe to cross the road either

          • Muttonbird 3.1.1.1.1

            Do you think Pete cowers in his cold Dunedin flat, afraid to go outside?

            It certainly seems that way.

        • WILD KATIPO 3.1.1.2

          I’ve noticed he pops up every time Pike River comes up…. he’s all through previous postings on the subject like a rash…

        • Johan 3.1.1.3

          The public has been subjugated to spin, cover-up and the saving of funds after the Pike River Mine Disaster. Nick Smith, as then the minister in charge will be grilled along with many other individuals who held our confidence and trust to do the right thing.
          In regards to Pete, he is merely a dumb RWNJ who spouts Tory propaganda without engaging his brain, which is obvious from his many silly comments.

        • Pete George 3.1.1.4

          @Muttonbird – you’re making a lot of things up there. Your assertions are just about totally false.

    • Well , – from memory the drive is 2 Km’s long. 1500 meters is around 3/4 the way in.

      Yet there was no explosion.

      Despite the fact that even digital watches or aluminium drinking cans are contraband underground in coal mines by law. Why? – because of the risk of a spark that could cause a methane gas explosion.

      Yet here we have video evidence of an electronically powered robot that has overheated and is now smoking ….

      Which proves the National govt ( both Key , then English ) Solid Energy and now it sounds certain of the Police themselves having been lying not only to the Pike River family’s but to the entire nation.

      Particularly withholding such critical evidence from the Royal Commission ,- this just really piles on the suspicion that there’s now definitely something they wanted to conceal from us all.

    • lprent 3.3

      That was 6 years ago. It showed that even back then humans could gone a fair way in if they had adequete insulation, cooling, and a air supply. Machines did and anything with pcbs ans chips is extremely fragile in heat.

      I doubt that there is anything to sustain those tempatures over 6 years. I woudm bet that the tempatures are way down.

      • mpledger 3.3.1

        Can something smoke without oxygen?

        • McFlock 3.3.1.1

          not fire-smoke.

          But steam? Yes, if say water got somewhere unwelcome or pooled on something that got hot.

          And I’ve had the occasional component on old machinery, like antique sewing machines, spray hot oil/grease and look to be boiling off whatever it was (probably carcinogenic, sigh), rather than burning as such.

    • michelle 3.4

      The fact the video exists and we never got to see it says a lot about the type of people we have ruining our country.
      There has been lies and blaming of our state agencies. Yet the Tories said our public services would be better and more efficient so we could have our brighter future.
      The police are showing there incompetence and they seem to have far too much power in areas they know and are not trained in. When are we going to learn bill English is starting to look like a fool he is stuttering and bumbling his way as key did but don’t think he can lie his way out of the mess we are in. He ( bill) has done far too much damage and wants to do more. I have no respect for these people ( the tories) they don’t even deserve capital letters in my view.

    • reason 3.5

      The almost inevitable killing of 29 men at Pike River represents so much that is wrong and rotten …it is particulary symbolic of John Keys Nacts.

      Greed
      Systemic failure
      Cynical political lies
      Poor management
      Disregard for the safety of workers before their deaths …
      Dirty politics afterwards ….

      “I’m here to give you absolute reassurance we’re committed to getting the boys out, and nothing’s going to change that… when people try and tell you we’re not… they’re playing with your emotions”……

      Keys above performance of insincere bullshit saw him go up in the polls …….. and kept the Governments deregulated under-resourced part in the killings…. and blame…. out of the story

      While our Nact friendly media quickly forget his broken promises….. the relatives of the killed mine workers did not.

      The mother of one killed young man ….is referred to as a f***k**g bitch …. for embarrassing key over his dishonesty ….

      You can read the ugly exchange between Key and slater in Nicky Hagers “Dirty Politics”…..

      Keys fake ‘nice guy’ mask slips …and we see a ugly uncaring wanker …. sorry bankster …

      Not keeping his word to the families …… shows how hollow they were.

      And considering the Governments contributions towards the manslaughter of these men ,,,,,,

      “In the wake of the report’s release, Mr Davidson said it was a failure in the way the legislation has been applied and a failure of the Department of Labour in its inspectorate role.””

      “Mining should have stopped until the risks could be properly managed,” it said.
      The Department of Labour should have prohibited the mine from operating until adequate systems were in place.

      It “assumed” Pike River was complying with the law “even though there was ample evidence to the contrary”. “

      Despite getting a multi million insurance payout for pike river …. Key showed his honest contempt for NZ workers … and disregard for the Governments role in the lethal failure…

      “Prime Minister John Key says families of Pike River victims will have to take the Government to court in order to win compensation from the Crown.”

      But for others …… rich others

      “ the Government announced last month it would give $5 million to Team New Zealand with no strings attached while the team decided whether to mount another challenge for the America’s Cup yacht race. “

      Or “A report into the Government’s controversial $11.5 million deal to set up a sheep farm in Saudi Arabia has found “significant shortcomings”

      Disgusting stuff from the Nacts ……………..

    • simbit 3.6

      But mining communities, like fishing communities, accept that danger as part of the obligations of working in such a place. Sure, you minimise the risks but ultimately, you risk your life for your mates. It’s based on mutual need, respect, and reciprocity. Politicians do it too, well, until they don’t…

      • WILD KATIPO 3.6.1

        Difference is miners and forestry workers and the like rely on adequate laws and protections to minimize those risks. Which wasn’t enforced in the slightest at Pike River. Costing 29 lives.

        This neo liberal govt deemed it more appropriate to classify ‘ worm farms ‘ as high risk industry’s at one stage afterwards instead….

  4. Dv 4

    What WOULD be regarded as evidence then?
    Does this mean that any video surveillance has no evidentiary value?

    • dukeofurl 4.1

      That wouldnt be for the police to decide. Its A RC and they have their counsel and investigative team ( unless they delegated to the Police ?)

      • Sacha 4.1.1

        Story clearly describes our inept cops having responsibility for deciding what counts as evidence, regardless of their lack of any mining knowledge. So wrong.

        • WILD KATIPO 4.1.1.1

          Meh ,… its always been this way…. they are not always there just to chase people throwing ice cream wrappers out of cars… if the govt wants something minimized,… they’ll work right in with them…

          Just ask Kim Dotcom.

          • tc 4.1.1.1.1

            surprise surprise nationals police force at it again.

            • michelle 4.1.1.1.1.1

              yeah tc we went from a nanny sate to a police state. I prefer the nanny as least she cares

        • SpaceMonkey 4.1.1.2

          This is why NZ needs a Crown Prosecution Service independent of the police.

  5. McFlock 5

    wasn’t it supposed to have been blocked by some sort of massive rockfall, not an abandoned vehicle?

    I have no freaking idea any more.

  6. Until now, this video has been kept from the families of the 29 men killed, like Dean Dunbar, father of 17-year-old Joe Dunbar.

    The footage is six years old, date-stamped March 15, 2011 – three months after the final explosion, and held by police ever since.

    “How could they do this to Joseph and the other guys? Why?” Mr Dunbar says.

    “They’ve had the footage; we haven’t.”

    The Government, authorities and the mine’s controllers have always maintained it’s too dangerous to enter, which Mr Dunbar rejects.

    “They created a situation of absolute danger; they made it look and sound explosive. It’s not,” he says.

    “We’re going to peel back that litany of lies and expose it for what it is.”

  7. Sabine 7

    Why? all that to protect the mining company?

    Usually there is a qui bono, but frankly i don’t see it here. I don’t see a qui bono for the NZ Police in this affair. – the politicos, the company i can see their interests in hushing down the tragedy, but the Police? Only following orders? What were they thinking?

    The heart goes out to the families, apologies will never make good the deceit by those that were supposed to protect their interests as citizens, parents, spouses and friends of those dead.

    Good grief..

    • Carolyn_nth 7.1

      Hmmm… wasn’t Judith Collins still Minister of Police in 2011…. til just before the election?

  8. Back on January 21st, 2017 , – in an article of The Standard entitled ‘Andrew Little: Together, we will fight for justice for Pike families ‘

    I stuck this comment ( curiously enough in answer to Pete George again – suprise ! suprise ! ) … and the reason I did was that Pike River was meant to also be a high quality coking coal source to enable the potential multi trillion dollar profits from this country’s iron sands resources :
    ………………………………………………………………

    @ Pete George

    ” High levels of methane means that breathing apparatus must be used,”

    * Not only does high levels of methane in the absence of oxygen (such as at Pike River which is 98% methane ) make a methane explosion impossible, – it also creates an ‘ inert’ gaseous environment.

    * methane is combustible only at concentrations of 4.5 – 17 % in the presence of oxygen.

    * Breathing apparatus would always be standard worn equipment – at least until sufficient monitoring demonstrated otherwise.

    ” And high levels of methane means that if enough air is introduced, or if there are pockets of air, or there are areas of different methane concentrations, there is raised risk.”

    * The whole idea and plan put forwards by mines recovery experts is to seal off and then use an inert gas to flush methane out of that section. Then create the next seal and repeat thus ‘ walking ‘ ones way up the drift.

    * the original seal 150 meters in was constructed without any fear of imminent explosions – and without breathing apparatus being worn apparently.

    ” If there is no raised risk why didn’t rescue teams go straight into the mine? ”

    * As you will recall – they were originally prevented from doing so – by the Police – not by those skilled in working in mines and mines recovery teams.

    ” Why is there so much debate about re-entering the mine now?”

    * Possibly for the same sorts of reasons Whittal was allowed to evade prosecution with WorkSafe NZ cutting a deal with Whittals insurance company – and also because as an example – our vast iron sand resources and the mining licenses that were granted to overseas mining company’s still stand.

    The least bad publicity these corporate’s get the better in their view – because as cited above – our iron sands resources alone are placed at between $1 and $5 trillion dollars.

    ” The “in-ground resource value” of New Zealand’s extensive ironsand deposits could be between $1 trillion and $5 trillion, says state-owned energy company Solid Energy.”

    https://www.nbr.co.nz/…/ironsand-could-produce-trillion-dollar-profit-elder-nn-8636.

    ……………………………………………………………………

    ( The above link no longer works and hasn’t soon after I posted in the last time )

    But here’s the rub why there seems to have been so much reticence to re enter that mine :
    …………………………………………………………………….

    Just for personal interests sake – here is the article from the above link. Bear in mind that licenses that were granted are still valid and that many are overseas corporate’s – not just NZ company’s. Most New Zealanders are not aware of the colossal dollar value in minerals in and around our shores and in our National Parks – yet the bankers and investors have known about it for years – including our own politicians.

    And that’s one of the reasons prosecutions and the reentry into Pike River is really being stonewalled.

    ……………………………………………………………………..

    The “in-ground resource value” of New Zealand’s extensive ironsand deposits could be between $1 trillion and $5 trillion, says state-owned energy company Solid Energy.

    The iron ore contained in ironsands off the west coast of the North Island has been estimated to be worth a trillion dollars, but Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder said that “the industry view is increasingly that (the value) could be substantially greater than that”.

    The final value would depend on the price of steel, and the availability of technology to smelt ironsands, he told Parliament’s commerce select committee yesterday.

    “Resources are attracting margins or profits in the order of 20 percent of the revenue.”

    Prices seen in 2008 would mean profit margins of 50 percent or “significantly higher” could be available from ironsands.

    A New Zealand-based company, Trans Tasman Resources Ltd (TTR), and overseas rivals are looking at exploiting New Zealand ironsands, and TTR has suggested that a domestic steel mill could use local high-grade coking coal to refine the ironsands.

    Dr Elder said Chinese companies had cheaper labour and capital and could do such projects faster, but New Zealand had an advantage in the availability of the water needed for such a refinery.

    “If you could process those in New Zealand, it’s a much much better value opportunity and would certainly compete with doing the same thing in China under the right circumstances, with the right technology”.

    ………………………………………………………………..

    There are many overseas company eyeing up those same resources , as well as NZ ones. Opencast mining is cheaper to conduct and – less prone to negative publicity such as the tragedy at Pike River. You will also recall when John Key first came to power, he and Brownlee were keen to exploit minerals in our national parks . However the rest of us were not and the momentum was lost.

    And as an example of what I meant , I posted this directly below :

    ………………………………………………………………..

    BTW :…

    Pike River was ONE of the mines that was envisioned to help supply that ‘high quality coking coal’ for the NZ iron sand smelting process….

    As well… the same company that owned the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia , USA , … that had a similar methane /coal dust explosion killing 29 workers with only 2 escaping ( just like Pike River) … several months before Pike River – ALSO HAD FINANCIAL INTERESTS IN PIKE RIVER.

    Go figure , people !!!

    There’s a lot more riding on this whole thing than meets the eye with some pretty powerful local and offshore vested interests who are working to ensure Pike River evidence never gets to see the light of day.

    • Fayrestorm 8.1

      This is very interesting. Can you elaborate further, as to the significance of the Pike River disaster and the Iron ore sand industry? Assuming there are other mines that can and will provide the same high quality coking coal to companies like Trans Tasman Resources, what specifically could evidence found via re entry of the mine at Pike, do to harm their business interests?

      • WILD KATIPO 8.1.1

        I’m sure you can work out for yourself the massive speculation and investments and profits to be made by banks and mining company’s and the lobbying being brought to bear on certain politicians in this country.

        I’m sure I do not have to explain to you in great deal about how mining in the national parks is a politically unpopular pursuit , – as is the removal and environmental impact on large scale mining operations for extracting iron-sands.

        And that those politicians who are advocating this also have pecuniary interests of their own in allowing it. Not withstanding also that licenses to prospect and mine are still valid – though granted years ago.

        I’m sure it makes it a lot harder for those foreign corporate’s to utilize NZ company’s who have a bad track record for mining safety , particularly when its shown that the same company that had an identical mining disaster is the same that had financial interests in Pike River. ( Upper Big Branch Mine ).

        And it definitely isn’t a good look to tear our natural environment apart and extract vast profits from these shores to the tune of 1 to 5 Trillion dollars worth in iron sands alone and leave this country with its homeless and family’s sleeping in cars?…. do you ?

        Not really a convincing case to enthuse the general public about letting multi nationals rip our environment apart – and then not even share a small percentage of the wealth from all those extractions , don’t you think?

  9. Philj 9

    Why would the government want to concrete the Pike River mine entrance and close it off forever? Suspicious.

  10. Ad 10

    Unmanned robotic entry makes good sense.

    The faster they can make the whole of underground mining unmanned the better it will be for us all.

    If it’s a proper coverup, this should take 1% off National just on negative coverage alone.

  11. Tarquin 11

    I wonder if Winston will be lining up to be the first person to go down there? Someone should call his bluff for once.

    • I think there will be a fair few people besides Winston lining up to go down after September and Labour is in power. And we wont be getting any more of this sort obstinate fabricating of excuses all the time either.

      Rather laughable that this cop out govt cant make legislation specific to Pike River – and that the option to enter isn’t being discussed in a cross party manner to introduce legislation specific to Pike River – and why ? – because they know damn well they would be voted down in a heartbeat.

      Six bloody years of this garbage… now in its 7th.

      Which brings us back to a wee small matter about video footage that was not produced before the Royal Commission when requests were made for all supporting photographic evidence available …. and why was it not?

      • Cinny 11.1.1

        Maybe we can get some straight answers tomorrow in the house?

        Standby for the carefully penned patsy sup’s from random members of the outgoing government when the opposition parties start asking questions.

  12. Cinny 12

    The outgoing government prefers to cover up and defend rather than investigate and take action, on many issues.

    Makes me sick to the stomach how the outgoing government deludes and deceives, especially re Pike River.

    The Pike Families deserve so much better than this.

  13. silvertuatara 13

    “The police did not pass the video onto the families or the Royal Commission because “it was assessed as having no evidential value”. The Government claims it has not seen the video.”

    I hope the Crown on behalf of the Pike River Familes now legally tests whether the evidential value of the video in question, was legally able to be determined by the police force as not being of any value.

    Surely the true jurisdiction for the value of this video evidence sat squarely with the Royal Commission as opposed to the police, and the police should have made all evidence available…..what else have the police yet to publicly disclose on this matter?

    I wonder if the Police alerted the National Government of the existence of the video under the “no surprises policy”. If so, then such a communication between the Police and the Government bears relevance to it’s policically sensitive nature and overall ultimate relevance to have had been admitted as evidence to the Royal Commission for consideration.

    I hope that the Office of the Ombudsman does the right thing and see to it that all communications associated with the disclosure of the existence of the video from the Police to the National Government and all associated communications are made publicly available in a timely manner (20 working days should be workable under the OIA Act….unless the Police have something to hide).

    • At a cursory glance , all this would show is either incompetence or an arrogance in overriding mines experts statements .

      I strongly doubt that is actually the case at all , however.

      Someone knew about that video evidence and chose to withhold that evidence from no less than a Royal Commission of Inquiry – by justifying it as ‘ irrelevant evidence’ – and implying their mining knowledge expertise is greater than either that of mines safety inspectors or mines recovery units.

      There would have been a distinct motive for doing this.

      ALL EVIDENCE is to be presented from a crime scene during a court trial – particularly if loss of life has occurred . Someone it seems, has possibly chosen to pervert the course of justice by the withholding of evidence.

  14. keepcalmcarryon 14

    Remember the cause: mismanagement -unenforced because of deregulation by – you guessed- a National government beginning in 1992.

    Now they want to wrap this thing up in health and safety issues. Its a form of Orwellian doublethink.
    If there are people willing to enter and if the risk isnt extreme, let them.
    There will be risk maybe even a lot, but so to for linesmen, sat divers, soldiers, forestry workers, hell even quad bike riders, all sorts.
    lets not forget what it actually means to be human.

  15. And as for Solid Energys and the National govts lies about being ‘too dangerous’ because of methane levels , – they contradict themselves straight away by stating that is because the drift is filled with 98% methane.

    What they wont tell you is that methane is only explosive in the presence of oxygen in concentrations of 4 to 17%, – not 98 % !!!

    98% is an inert condition.

    And as for a rockfalls or massive damage, again ,… it sure doesn’t appear like it in that latest video the Police deemed as having ‘ no evidential value ‘…

    Someone’s telling porky’s and it sure isn’t the Pike River family’s.

  16. Philj 16

    Why did Solid Energy buy train wreck Pike River?

  17. Interestingly in my comment above , ( 8 ) – we now have THIS :

    ‘Secret’ coal mining plans on the West Coast alarm Forest & Bird
    Stuff.co.nz

    AND THIS :

    Forest & Bird says Government has secret mining plans for Denniston …
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11848323

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