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Hope ends at mine (updated)

Written By: - Date published: 5:01 pm, November 24th, 2010 - 116 comments
Categories: Mining - Tags:

There has been a second explosion at the Pike River mine.

Superintendent Gary Knowles told the Herald the miners couldn’t have survived a blast of that magnitude, which occurred at 2.37pm.

Family members were seen crying as they left a police briefing a short time ago.

My heart goes out to the families.

Update: The EPMU’s press release says:-

The EPMU will now make the practical arrangements to establish a fund to assist the families of the men whose lives have been lost.

The EPMU is calling on the government to establish an independent inquiry to investigate the circumstances of the explosion, including a public hearing in front of a senior judge and leading technical experts.

The union will do everything possible to assist in any investigation.

This is the worst mining accident in New Zealand since 43 miners were killed in a mine fire in Huntly in 1914.

The EPMU is the largest private sector union in New Zealand, representing around 45,000 members across eleven industry sectors, including 1,200 in the mining sector.

I’ll link to it after it gets online somewhere (here). However it echos my opinion about an independent review.

A mining disaster of this type could just be plain bad luck, But it could be a systematic problem that needs to be looked at closely for future mining.

The number of mining inspectors has been run down over time so safety checks are not what they were. Gerry Brownlee has an current obsession with putting more mines into operation and has committed this government to do it. That makes the government and especially the Minister of Mines an inappropriate group to look for causes of this tragedy.

It seems appropriate to have an external independent evaluation for the worst mining disaster in nearly a century.

116 comments on “Hope ends at mine (updated) ”

  1. hateatea 1

    He aitua, he parekura.
    Ka maringi noa ngā roimata mo rātou kua wheturangitia.
    Aue te pouri, aue te mamae

    My thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends

  2. Sanctuary 2

    Mission not complete. 🙁

  3. Bright Red 3

    probably, none of them survived the first blast, which was on the same magnitude. and its likely to coal was burning, eating the oxygen, most of the time after the first blast until the oxygen:methane ratio got right to trigger a second explosion.

    Not knowing for so long must be very hard for the families and community.

    I see questions are already been asked about mine safety standards http://www.nzherald.co.nz/pike-river-mine-blast/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503000&objectid=10689649

    • Lanthanide 3.1

      It was a huge mistake of them not to release the knowledge/footage of the length of the explosion on Saturday.

      Instead they’ve talked up this whole time about how it is a rescue operation, not a recovery, yet they would’ve known on Saturday (and likely Friday night) just how ferocious it was.

      And yes, the heat, lack of oxygen and carbon monoxide from the burning coal would’ve finished them off pretty quickly, if the actual explosion itself hadn’t. After having no signs of anyone crawling out of the mine by Sunday, it was pretty evident no one would be coming out – they were either trapped, or too badly injured to get out, or dead.

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.1

        Its like they think that people can’t deal with the grim reality of life and death situations, everything has to be sugar coated and spun to some end.

        • Bill

          It struck me at the time as what I might term the ‘talking to the relatives’ hospital strategy. Everything is fine. Everything is always fine and going to be okay. And then…

          • Colonial Viper

            The healthcare professionals I’ve been around tend to be trained not to talk in optimistic platitudes. If anything, doctors tend to be a little bit on the pessimistic side so as to not give false hope. (“I’m sorry Mr Jones, the test results are not good, you’ve likely only got three months left”).

      • Lew 3.1.2

        they’ve talked up this whole time about how it is a rescue operation, not a recovery

        No. Since the 10am press conference on Monday (possibly before) it has been referred to as “search & recovery” by the Police.


  4. Colonial Viper 4

    This is a very sad and definitive ending for all involved. Sounds like methane gas simply built up again over time. It is awful that no one even seemed to know if there was anyone left to be rescued.

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      A guy from Oz was on the radio this morning saying they had a similar explosion in a mine over there, and 36 hours later it exploded again.

      Guess this mine will be shut for good, now. Also puts paid to any public support for mining schedule 4. Just imagine if that plan had gone further ahead…

      • Jagilby 4.1.1

        “Also puts paid to any public support for mining schedule 4. ”

        So we’re already back to playing politics over this within an hour of the grim statement.


        • lprent

          Don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve been holding off looking at the causes of this disaster since it happened. I’ve deliberately constrained my anger about it until now.

          A methane buildup to the level that can cause an explosion is something that shouldn’t happen in a mining operation with appropriate sensors. There should have been time well before it hit dangerous levels for the staff to have been pulled out.

          I want to find out what the frigging hell happened.

          • Roflcopter

            “There should have been time well before it hit dangerous levels for the staff to have been pulled out.”

            And you know this how, oh enlightened one?

            Unless you were there, at the coal face (so to speak), you have absolutely no right to spout that rubbish.

            Kia kaha to the families.

            • lprent

              I have a background in earth sciences and at one stage I was thinking about heading into mining so I did some reading on risk factors. Plus of course there has been considerable background commentary in various media from mining engineers over the last week.

              Answer your question?

              • Roflcopter

                No it doesn’t… you could have a gazillion letters after your name, but unless you were actually there, there’s no way you could have any idea of the levels of risk, and risk assessment, at the mine.

                “I did some reading on risk factors” & “background commentary from mining engineers” …. you formed the opinion that they should have gone down based on that?

                That’s hilarious.

                • Lanthanide

                  I think you’ve misunderstood his initial comment.

                  He is saying that in general, at a well-run mine with proper safety precautions, you should always have appropriate gas sensors in place such that if a dangerous situation develops, everyone can be evacuated from the mine. He is saying that no one should’ve been in the mine on Friday when it first exploded, because everyone should’ve been evacuated at least 30 minutes before.

                  What your reply at is effectively saying is “because of the specifics of the pike river mine, they don’t actually require those safety standards, or the safety standards were impossible to implement”.

                • Colonial Viper

                  but unless you were actually there, there’s no way you could have any idea of the levels of risk, and risk assessment, at the mine.

                  Untrue. That’s like saying you have to be sitting on a plane when it crashes to know anything about what happened and why. You don’t.

                  Basically, LP knows exactly what he is talking about.

                • lprent

                  No, I formed the opinion that they should have been warned in time to come up. I want to know if they did get warned, and if so why wasn’t there time for them to get out of danger, or alternatively why that didn’t happen.

                  I’m presuming that they wouldn’t have been sent down into the mine if the methane levels were too high (at least I’d bloody well hope not).

                  We’ve been coal-mining underground for centuries and there is a pretty good body of knowledge about risk factors and how to mitigate against them. We need to know what (if anything) failed in this mine.

                  My only political interest is that I don’t trust Brownlee to do a good job of determining that – he is the wrong person for his various jobs. I also don’t think that Wilkinson has been noticeable for looking after workers either. I’d want to see an independent inquiry.

                  • Swampy

                    Comment from Trevor Watts of Mines Rescue

                    “There was never an opportunity to enter the mine after the first explosion, as a gas drainage line taking coal seam methane out of the mine had been ruptured.

                    The severed line was spewing out 800 litres per second of methane, which created an explosive mix in the mine’s atmosphere.”

                    • Colonial Viper

                      That’s not good, that equates to about 500,000L/min of explosive gas volume. Ouch.

                      The second thing which is not good, it means one incident like we had can make rescue of men at any time afterwards virtually impossible.

                      That is, the safety system of gas drainage became a lethal trap.

            • Colonial Viper

              And you know this how, oh enlightened one?

              lprent makes a pretty sensible statement.

              Methane has upper and lower explosive limits of approx 5 and 15% (http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/explosive-concentration-limits-d_423.html)

              I presume mine gas alarms are designed to go off at well under 5% concentration (no good going off once an explosive concentration has been reached).

              However, I haven’t heard any reports saying that the survivors heard the gas alarms going off before the blast, nor that any such alarms triggered in the control room. WHY NOT?

            • toad

              Utter crap, Roflcopter.

              Anyone with the most basic knowledge of chemistry can work out when the methane-oxygen ratio in the air in the mine approaches an explosive proportion.

              One of two things happened here. Either they had inadequate monitoring, so they didn’t know when an explosive methane-oxygen ratio was imminent, or they did know and chose to ignore it anyway in the hope the methane concentration would not further increase to an explosive level.

              Either way, a very bad look that has cost 29 lives.

              I’ve been reluctant to comment while the miners still may have been alive, but now all hope is lost the time has come to ask some serious questions.

              • Swampy

                Or, there was a sudden increase too quick to be registered by the gas sensors.

                • Colonial Viper

                  That’s possible, but given that a release of high concentration methane needs to be spread out through air until its <15% concentration it doesn't happen instantaneously.

                  The fact there have been multiple explosions now will make the explosives forensic work more difficult.

          • Draco T Bastard

            I want to know what happened as well but my experience with gas detectors is that you can’t have them running continuously as the detector heads needs to be cleared with fresh air regularly (Admittedly it’s been 20 years since I used one and the tech should have improved). If they hit an undetected gas pocket between changes the gas build up could have happened fast enough that it wouldn’t be detected. Hell, if they hit such a gas pocket it could have exploded immediately and gas detectors wouldn’t have been any use anyway.

            Gas exists in coal seems and mining it is never going to be 100% safe.

            • Lanthanide

              Yeah, I feel that it’s likely they hit a gas pocket. There have been reports over the last few days saying that the gas content in the coal at pike river was on the high-end of scale for coal mines of that sort.

            • Colonial Viper

              NB methane will not explode over a 15% concentration it needs time to mix with air before it will explode.

            • lprent

              Agreed about gas sensors, but that is why mines should have several ‘lines’ of them on differing maintenance cycles if that is an issue (I don’t know if they’ve moved more to some of the better molecule detection systems).

              The tech has improved considerably especially with the microprocessor revolution. Most industrial sensors I’ve worked with recently (not gas detection ones) have some pretty good self-analysis inbuilt.

          • john

            It would have cost a lot of money and further expense but with modern technology as is I feel there is a prime facie case a computerised sensor system with alarms could have saved them, this would have required constant monitoring of gas and composition levels. Like saying if the car had air bags they would have been saved!Canaries were used in mines to detect carbon monoxide and methane as late as 1987.Should they have used them?

            • john

              CANARY early warning system

              toxic fumes such as methane and carbon monoxide will kill a canary way before having affects on humans, due simply to the size of animals. Canaries were specifically used because they have a tendency to sing constantly, so it was an audible alarm, if the bird stopped singing.

              Canaries were once regularly used in coal mining as an early warning system. Toxic gases such as carbon monoxide and methane in the mine would kill the bird before affecting the miners. Because canaries tend to sing much of the time, they provided both a visual and audible cue in this respect. The use of so called miner’s canaries in British mines was phased out as recently as 1987

              • lprent

                The big risk in mines with methane gas explosions usually isn’t where you are, it is from where you aren’t. Miners carry methane detectors that are more sensitive to low concentrations local to them than canaries ever were. So typically miners will die of explosions from where they aren’t, they’d have detected local methane. They die because of blast and flame effects in a constrained space from explosions that are often reasonably remote to their current location..

                High concentrations of methane don’t ignite, they will quietly suffocate you if you’re unable to get out of their way in time. That was what the canaries were for – to detect the onset of suffocatingly high concentrations of methane.

              • toad

                The canary is very effective re CO (which causes both people and birds to pass out before killing them, but does it much quicker with birds because of their lower lung capacity and faster metabolism).

                However, the canary is hopeless with CH4 – methane doesn’t have the same toxicity as carbon monoxide, and will get to an explosive atmospheric concentration long before it has any respiratory effect on a canary, a human being, or any other animal. And you can’t smell it either.

          • Vicky32

            Indeed! A friend of mine said the same in an email yesterday…

          • Swampy

            Gas outburst is possible, IIRC it is what happened at Mt Davy (the new mine Solid Energy was forced to close 1998 after death of 3 miners)

    • Colonial Viper 4.2

      What gets me Lanth is that if other people are correct, officials knew that the miners were probably already dead to start with, but they let people talk prospects up.

      Officials must also have known that it was just a matter of time before another explosion ripped through which would finish anyone lucky enough to survive off. Now that it has, the pressure to act quickly or take any further risks is gone.

      • The Voice of Reason 4.2.1

        If you think about the language most of the spokespeople used it was ‘we want to get the men out’ not ‘we want to get them out alive’. In fact, the only person I can recall saying ‘alive’ was our PM on Monday night. And as I said earlier today, he already knew they were likely to have died when he said it. But then, if you are already completely lacking in empathy for your fellow humans, telling porkies like that doesn’t mean a damn.

        Fuck it, I’m off to the pub to raise a glass, especially for Joseph Dunbar who went into work on Friday a kid, but now will forever be a man. A miner and a man.

        Kia kaha.

        • Lanthanide

          Maybe, but they also repeatedly referred to it as a rescue, not a recovery. They also said “men”, rather than “bodies”.

          In fact they were questioned as to why John Key had referred to it as a “recovery” in parliament, either Monday or Tuesday, and they replied by confirming it was still a “rescue operation”.

  5. Tigger 5

    Dear Media, Please stay out of the faces of the families who are going through an unspeakable horror. If they want to talk, they’ll talk. But if not, let these poor people grieve in peace. Thank you. Tigger. P.S. Especially you pushy types pretending to be aid workers etc. Don’t make me come down there and slap you silly.

    • Bill 5.1

      Sadly, I can see the media treating this as the biggest and potentially longest running ‘human interest’ story that they’ve had in quite some time.

      They’ll hook into shocked people, getting them to open on to their well honed sincerely insincere sympathetic ear for round after round of voyeuristic TV. Hopefully some shocked people will hook them, quite literally and they’ll back off.

      But even in that case I guess they’d attempt to interview lesser affected neighbours and so forth. Or the neighbours of the foreign workers and contractors abroad.

      In situations like this too many in the media are like those pestering squawking seagulls that won’t let you eat lunch in peace; who back off only as far as they feel they need, before crowding in again.

    • Big Bruv 5.2

      Well said Tigger

    • @ Tigger – couldn’t agree more, and in fact posted the following on Facebook last night. A number of my FB friends copied and pasted, and if anyone here feels disposed to do likewise, go for it!

      Dear TVNZ, 3News, RadioLive, Newstalk ZB and print journalists. The story of the Pike River Mine tragedy has been told. How about you all go home now, and allow the people of the West Coast to grieve without your intrusion.

      Otherwise, now is not the time for finger-pointing and petty politicking. Although I have no truck with his politics, my thoughts today are with Andrew Little, among othres. When he was on the telly on Friday night, he had the look of a condemened man.

  6. freedom 6

    to all who have lost loved ones during this tragedy,
    we will carry you in our hearts over these heavy days ahead

  7. hateatea 7

    It would be wonderful if posters here could avoid filling this post with politics and blame. This is neither the time nor the place. There are other places more appropriate

    Captcha: loss

    Respect the lives lost and take your politics elsewhere

    • Kia ora hateatea

      I agree but …

      The Labour Party and the Trade Union Movement trace their origins to the West Coast and the Miners. Many of the Ministers of the First Labour Government including Mickey were miners.

      And the seminal disputes were about working conditions and safety. It is hard to comprehend how in this time they are still issues. This is why Andrew Little and Phil Goff are down there. This event opens many memories.

      And there is the difficulty that it was a coal mine and it was on conservation land. Surgical mining?

      • lprent 7.1.1

        And there is the difficulty that it was a coal mine and it was on conservation land.

        Actually under conservation land…

      • hateatea 7.1.2

        As a grandaughter, great grandaughter and niece of miners, I totally respect the role of miners’ unions in raising safety issues, wage and employment conditions etc for the benefit of workers everywhere. My grandfather and great uncles were coal miners during the Depression and I was raised on stories of the practices and conditions then..

        My hope was, given lprents original post was that of condolence, that this particular post would be reserved for making supportive and consoling posts for the families and friends leaving the political and critical posts for elsewhere on the blog.

        Of course, I am a visitor here and I respect the rights of the blog owners to follow where the posts lead.

        • lprent

          The post as originally written was a straight breaking news post. I updated it when I read my e-mail and saw the press release from the EMPU that outlined the next sensible steps.

          I don’t see those as being particularly political. They are what happens in the aftermath of every disaster. Help those remaining and find out what happened and how to prevent it next time. For the authors of this labour movement site it is a particular interest that the latter is carried out.

  8. vto 8

    Fuck. Is a second home to us the Coast. Tears.

  9. Sean Brooks 9

    Thoughts and best wishes goes out to all involved.

  10. TV3 are milking this thing to death, why do they keep going over and over ‘maybes’ just give us the facts, ok to see Key it is his job etc, but the miners lamp giving ‘us’ “hope” again and again.
    Turned TV off

    • Lanthanide 10.1

      I’ve been appalled by the media coverage ever since Friday. They had special news updates at 10:30pm to update on the latest news, which every time they’ve done it has essentially been ‘nothing’. A special news update that contains no new information really isn’t required.

      TV1 also had an ad playing on Sunday pimping their news coverage by showing their footage of the current unfolding drama. My boyfriend called it crass and I agreed.

    • Carol 10.2

      Yes. I’ve replaced TV3 with some soulful music. My deepest sympathies to the families, friends and partners of the 29 hardworking men.

    • Draco T Bastard 10.3

      They’re all milking it to death. TVOne has a 2 hour special on.


      • Missouri State 10.3.1

        I thought the TVNZ coverage this evening was a restrained and appropriate broadcast. No ads. Quiet interviews. Not perfect, but much better than it might have been, and probably a lot better than the Aussie media would have done if this morning’s press conference was any indication.

  11. smhead 11

    Apparently it’s too much to expect a bit of decorum from LP at the Standard. Bringing politics into the announcement is the lowest of the low LP.

    RIP, brave boys of the mines.

    • lprent 11.1

      Read the about.

      This is a blog for the broad labour movement. 29 people are almost certainly dead in one of the worst workplace accidents of the last century. Don’t you think that warrants an independent investigation to find out what happened? The EMPU who probably represents most of those workers thinks so, and so do I.

      What would you do? Stand around wringing your hands?

      • Lanthanide 11.1.1

        Given who the condemnation is coming from, I think he’s just trying to do anything to put you down and make himself look more caring.

        I don’t have any problem with discussing politics or broader concerns in this thread, as long as no one is being overtly disrespectful.

      • felix 11.1.2

        Well said Lynn and Lanth.

        I wish Phil Goff understood as much. But no, he’s asked that question time be cancelled tomorrow.

        • Carol

          Goff has said more than once in the last couple of days, including in his speech in the House yesterday, that there are questions to be asked and an investigation to be done, but now is not the time. At the moment it’s about the 29 men. I think it’s appropriate not to have question time tomorrow.

          Andrew Little & Goff have been down near the mine talking with and supporting people the last few days. That’s the right thing, IMO, for them ATM. Others all over the place, including some of the families of the 29, are asking questions & being critical. That is part of the process also, just as with people asking questions here. The pressure will build up for questions to be answered by the people in positions of power who had responsibilities for the mine’s safety.

          Also, on TV3 tonight, I saw Goff being interviewed about the area and the miners there, being the origin of the Labour Party. And also on TV3 tonight, Andrew Little said 11 of the 29 men were EPMU members and one was a EPMU delegate.

          • felix

            I get that, but there is plenty to question the govt about.

            Tragic as this whole affair is, there are still people who need jobs and houses and healthcare and education and protection all over the country. The govt still needs to be held to account. The opposition’s work goes on.

      • mickysavage 11.1.3


        Obviously we should not work out what to do to prevent this happening again because this would be political.

        You should learn some history. Labour represents a movement that started on the West Coast because of poor safety and working conditions.

        Is it political? It was then and it still is now.

        Capcha: health …

    • Colonial Viper 11.2

      You show true respect by making sure the same tragic situation can never occur to anyone else again. And my read is that LP is determined to do just that.

      • lprent 11.2.1

        Yep. Methane explosions in coal mines may not be preventable, but deaths in such explosions should be preventable.

        It usually takes a significant amount of time before an outburst of methane mixes with air down to a explodeable level. The other scenario with a gradually rising mixture to a explode point shouldn’t happen at all. In either case there shouldn’t be ignition sources to trigger an explosion.

        It is possible that a genuine unpreventable accident with casualties does happen. But they are pretty rare.

  12. vto 12

    Know what else “ends at mine”?

    People’s trust in the Police that what is being said in such situations is the truth; and,

    people’s trust that emergency services are doing things the right way,

    at least until the full situation is investigated and reported on and clears these questions away. Both these things will be front of mind for Coasters after the grief subsides.

    What an absolute tragedy. And so concentrated in a few small communities. I can’t think too well at the moment but when was the last bigger tragedy? Erebus?

  13. It looks like Greymouth is setting up a fund people can donate to, to support miners families and the EPMU is also setting up a fund.

    This event is also happening in chch:

    Fundraiser for the Pike River Mine families: moved to December 2nd due to needing a larger space.

    The methane explosion at the Pike River Mine has left many people effected — Beyond Resistance invites you to a film screening of ‘Harlan County USA’, where we hope to raise some funds and show our support for the families of the 29 miners.

    WHEN: THURSDAY December 2ndt, 7PM

    WHERE: Workers Educational Association (WEA). 59 Gloucester Street, Christchurch (opposite the City Art Gallery).

    ENTRY: recommended $5 donation (all funds raised will go to the effected families).

    Harlan County USA is a classic piece of documentary making: passionate, intense, gripping and absorbing. Barbara Kopple’s documentary unflinchingly documents a gruelling yet inspiring coal miners’ strike in a small Kentucky town in the 1970s. She lived in the mining community, and tells their story in their own words.

    The bitter 13 month strike occurred between a very deprived community fighting to survive and a ruthless and powerful coal mining company determined to preserve its profits. It shows how the company attempted to break the strike through using local police, and hiring slimy armed thugs and scabs. It shows how the strikers kept the strike going, how they attempted to blockade scab labour from entering the mine, how women played an absolutely crucial role in supporting the strike, and how they sought support from other communities and workers.

    Viewers will get a sense of what coal mining is like, the conditions in which miners have to face every day, and why the issues of health and safety are paramount.

    This is an open event, and children are welcome. Tea and nibbles will be provided.

    Show your support in this dark time.

    • Swampy 13.1

      Is this meant to imply “an inquiry is unnecessary because we already know what killed the miners”?

      This is such an extreme viewpoint it is almost inappropriate for fundraising.

  14. Maui 14

    I think an inquiry would need to be headed by a knowledgable person from outside the small country that we are.

    There are too many vested interests involved.

    • Lanthanide 14.1

      Thankfully our nearest neighbour is pretty good at this mining stuff.

    • just saying 14.2

      And not just the chair either. A whitewash would be the ultimate disrespect.

      I’m really hoping all those politicians hanging around, (left and right), make a huge effort to restrain themselves from exploiting the bereaved as a marketing opportunity.

      I realise Jonkey is a completely lost cause here, maybe some of the others might be able to muster some decency, respect and compassion…

      Was shocked to hear that parliament is cancelled tomorrow ‘out of respect’. Respect for parlimentarians would surely be an urgent debate….? I don’t get it.

      Can’t find any words for a tragedy on this scale impacting so heavily on such small communities. My heart goes out to the grieving.

      • Swampy 14.2.1

        Whether you like it or not Mr Key is the Prime Minister of NZ, and the way you express your view suggests you would be silent if Helen Clark or some other left wing PM was in power instead.

        Key has behaved exactly as we would expect our PM to behave in the circumstances. He isn’t the King of Tonga flying off to Europe the day after a large number of his subjects are drowned in a ferry sinking.

        • Colonial Viper

          the way you express your view suggests you would be silent if Helen Clark or some other left wing PM was in power instead.

          I notice the Right Wing tactic of ‘I bet if there was a Lefty in charge you’d let the shit smell sail on through and call it roses’

          Nah mate, bad form is bad form.

  15. Colonial Viper 15

    Any change will come from the workers and the unions kicking up and raising issues.

    Raising issues, and if the situation demands, raising hell. Hear hear.

  16. Big Bruv 16

    “What’s with the right wingers suddenly getting all choked up over some dead people and suggesting that making political comment ( on a political blog none-the-less ) is disrespectful.”

    It is disrespectful you fucking wanker.

    I came here to offer my condolences to the people of the West Coast, I felt sure that on this of all days that even the Standard would not be attempting to score political points.

    Seems I was wrong, shame on you Iprent for letting them get away with it.

    [lprent: I’d already moved it because it was too far off the topics in the post. It takes time to be able to moderate. And don’t you start up a flamewar or I’ll bounce you. ]

    • Colonial Viper 16.1

      Hey Big Bruv

      I came here to offer my condolences to the people of the West Coast, I felt sure that on this of all days that even the Standard would not be attempting to score political points.

      Why don’t you leave your sincere heartfelt condolescences then, because you’ve somehow managed to have a go at everyone else without actually doing so. And when you are done feel free to take a hike back to where you came from.

    • Big Bruv 16.2

      Happy to play by the rules Iprent….just as long as they are evenly applied.

      Look, I have no issue with the rules of this blog, just don’t pretend that they are even handed rules.

      Your blog, your rules…just make them a bit clearer.

    • felix 16.3

      It’s a bit fucking late for you to start showing respect for working people bruv.

  17. Carol 17

    Well it looks like a whole “raft” of enquiries or investigations will begin pretty much immediately:


    It looks like the coroner’s investigation will start tomorrow. I’m not keen on the sound of investigations being launched by Key, Brownlee, Wilkinson et al., and the fact that they want to find out the cause ASAP. Commissions of Inquiry are meant to be fully independent. I hope any independent investigations are not buried by some hasty government-led inquiry.

    It sounds like various parties are already beginning their investigations, and I would hope Labour & The Greens are doing some of their own investigating too. I would imagine it would help to gather information before starting to ask questions in the House next week.

  18. I agree totally with smiths sentiments. I\’m not sure whether any one or any one thing is to blame for this tragedy. Ive been impressed with the CEO\’s intelligent contribution and openess with the media. But my feelings of grief for all involved, does not come without anger towards a government that is inherently insensitive and uncaring towards workers generally..

    How can we forget at this time that this goverment would dearly love to mine the guts out of our lovely country, regardless of the risks and consequencies for us all.
    It looked to me like the reference John Key made this evening to ACC being available to the victims was a slip up, rather than a sincere message of support. His address to the nation was horribly script dependant. It failed to evern resemble a heart felt address, and was what was from our leader at this time. He floundered with his words and his constant glances downward gave the eimpression he had something to hide.
    As I mourn for those men, their families and communities, I ask the question – will this govt rethink the value of H & S in the workplace or maintain its profit driven focus.. Will it rethink its attitude to union representation on issues that effect workers lively-hood and lives?.

    • lprent 18.1

      I agree totally with smiths sentiments.

      Look so do I in many respects – just read my climate change posts. However it isn’t what the post was written about, so it got moved to OpenMike.

      What I’m worried about is that we’ll not find out what happened from any credible and independent source. Consequently whatever the problem is won’t get fixed and it will happen again.

  19. pundit X 19

    lprent is right this always was a preventable disaster. Apart from issues around gas detection the ventilation system was clearly wholly inadequate with no built in redundancy. 29 men have died because of someones shonky risk analysis and we are now being diverted from criticising the mines management and softened up for open cast mining by the the Herald. Fran O’Sullivan posted an article today supporting Pike River Coal boss Peter Whittall and questioning whether: “A subsequent inquiry should examine whether conservation values and ‘good old-fashioned mining practices’ can co-exist in practice.” http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10689642

  20. M 20

    Just in from work and the media rash is terrible for these poor people.

    I really hope that intrusive reporters are given short shrift a la Emma Thompson (when a reporter asked her how she felt about her split from Kenneth Branagh she told the reporter off a treat and asked him how he could even think of asking such a question of someone he barely knew) as these families need to give into the complete anguish and misery they will feel and when a reporter asks the hackneyed “How do you feel?” they need to counter “How do you think I feel you #@#&*%”

    Friends and neighbours need to close ranks and give the affected a wall of protection from the parasitical media. A ready-made meal, child minding, a listening ear and some company if that’s what the family wants right now, and further down the track will hopefully provide succour.

  21. millsy 21

    Tonight, we are all West Coasters.

    Lest we forget.

    Personally I think a Royal Commission would be the most appropriate form of inquiry. No stone must be left un-turned.

    • Colonial Viper 21.1

      For the magnitude of the tragedy you I think that this would be the most appropriate course of action. I hope Labour is listening.

  22. lprent 22

    They were. But I’m more concerned about getting to find out what happened – and that means we get a good independent inquiry by people who are competent. The terms for the inquires will being worked on now.

    We can argue about if the mine should be there on a different post, and I’ll bet that some are being pondered on at present. I actually have a some guest posts / reprints that we’ve held back while there was hope

    • A commisson of inquiry will find that the tunnel entrance should have been on the West side not the East side. Helen Clark did this so to please the green tree huggers. Fact. Common sense was missing when that fatal decision was made.
      It makes me piss blood when I hear the stupid fucked up greens calling for inquiry when they are responsible for this tragedy in the first place. I expect Miss Clark will be put under the hammer over her dangerous act? Yeah right this is whitewash NZ and the pollies can paint over coal dust. Just look at Cave Creek. That was murder.

      • millsy 22.1.1

        Yep blame the greens for wanting our natural heritage protected, instead of being turned into a toxic stinking pit of crap.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 22.1.2

        Nonsense. The location of the ‘entrance’ has nothing to do with it. Its the coal that caused the explosion. The company was responsible for not having the very high standard of equipment required.
        Its barely opened and then this. Tells you it hasnt operated safely from the beginning

        • Carol

          The 2008 report showed that NZ had cut back on safety inspections, and did less of them than in other countries like Aussie:

          He said safety check inspectors were removed in the late 1990s.

          Mr Little said a Labour Department review in 2008 found that New Zealand’s mining standards lagged behind those in many Australian states.

          But he believes the report was overlooked.

          As I recall, in places like Aussie there is a saftey check by an external safety inspector every shift, whereas in NZ they are done a few times a year.

          ODT reports that mines in NZ have always been pretty dangerous, and in recent years it had become more challenging. This is because the coal that is easiest to mine have been mined, so now they are mining in less accessible areas. However, NZ mining companies were seen in the international industry, as providing a high level of safety procedures. Conservation restrictions are seen as one (among many) of the factors that make present day coal mining more challenging. But, IMO that’s not a reason for doing away with conservation regulations. What’s the point of mining if it damages the environment we all live in, perhaps causing long term damage?


          Another ODT article argues that NZ needs to improve it’s training of safety inspectors for mines.

      • Frank Macskasy 22.1.3

        I think you’re being totally unfair and apportioning blame where none exists.

        Methane would have built up regardless of where the mine entrance was. Coal mines are simply the most dangerous industrial sites in the world.

  23. BLiP 23

    R I P

    Conrad John Adams, 43, Greymouth, New Zealand

    Malcolm Campbell, 25, Greymouth, Scottish

    Glen Peter Cruse, 35, Cobden, New Zealand

    Allan John Dixon, 59, Runanga, New Zealand

    Zen Wodin Drew, 21, Greymouth, New Zealand

    Christopher Peter Duggan, 31, Greymouth, New Zealand

    Joseph Ray Dunbar, 17, Greymouth

    John Leonard Hale, 45, Ruatapu, New Zealand

    Daniel Thomas Herk, 36, Runanga, New Zealand

    David Mark Hoggart, 33, Foxton, New Zealand

    Richard Bennett Holling, 41, Blackball, New Zealand

    Andrew David Hurren, 32, Greymouth, New Zealand

    Jacobus (Koos) Albertus Jonker, 47, Cobden, South Africa

    William John Joynson, 49, Dunollie, Australia

    Riki Steve Keane, 28, Greymouth, New Zealand

    Terry David Kitchin, 41, Runanga, New Zealand

    Samuel Peter Mackie, 26, Greymouth, New Zealand

    Francis Skiddy Marden, 41, Runanga, New Zealand

    Michael Nolan Hanmer Monk, 23, Greymouth, New Zealand

    Stuart Gilbert Mudge, 31, Runanga, New Zealand

    Kane Barry Nieper, 33, Greymouth, New Zealand

    Peter O’Neill, 55, Runanga, New Zealand

    Milton John Osborne, 54, Ngahere, New Zealand

    Brendan John Palmer, 27, Cobden, New Zealand

    Benjamin David Rockhouse, 21, Greymouth, New Zealand

    Peter James Rodger, 40, Greymouth, British

    Blair David Sims, 28, Greymouth, New Zealand

    Joshua Adam Ufer, 25, Australia

    Keith Thomas Valli, 62, Winton, New Zealand.

  24. re the mine, it was consented by Chris Carter when he was Conservation Minister. I am rather interested in what comes up in the Inquiry into the Pike tragedy.

    I imagine there will also be a safety review of NZ underground coal mines too. Hope the Miner’s families get all the support and love they need.

  25. Olwyn 25

    My heart goes out to the people on the coast at this sad time, especially the family and friends of the men who have died. What an ordeal they have been through already.

  26. Frank Macskasy 26

    Our family grieves with the people of the West Coast for the loss of their loved ones.

    We would like to extend our admiration to two men in particular; Supt Gary Knowles and Pike River Mine CEO, Peter Whittal. Their steady, calm leadership was exemplary. They both fronted before the nation – and then the world – making sometimes unpopular decisions, and in the process saving other lives from a similar fate to the 29 lost miners.

    Supt Gary Knowles and Peter Whittal – thank you both for all you have done for your country.

  27. rightofleftcentre 27

    First time I’ve been in tears at work in front of fellow workers. Ever.
    My heart goes out to the families, some of whom are very close to family I have still living in my birthplace and surrounding communities :(.
    R.I.P. x29

  28. At least three inquiries are being mounted into the Pike River Coal mine disaster described by Prime Minister John Key as having “ripped at the guts” of the country.
    Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean has set the ball rolling for his own special inquiry , starting tomorrow. Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) national secretary Andrew Little said there was scope for the inquiry to take a wider view of the safety of miners underground in general, and not just the specific cause of huge methane blasts.

    Little said the focus had to primarily be on what happened at Pike River, but the inquiry could look at how that mine’s operations measured up to industry standards, and whether those standards were adequate.

    Overall, the union was concerned about the number of fatalities and serious injury in New Zealand mines, where the environment was hazardous and consequences could be catastrophic.

  29. Pascal's bookie 29

    I got no words. Closest I’ve got is Steve Earle’s song for and about miners, and the mountains and lives that define that special breed.

    Aroha nui to all those affected in whatever way.

  30. Soony Blount 30

    From what I understand, the cause of this was reated to a power cut during the hours preceding the explosion.

    A secondary power source may have helped matters.

  31. vto 31

    Several swing regions in the South Island I predict will go left next election – Timaru (Hubbard), Christchurch (Ecan) and West Coast (Pike River).

    • Sonny Blount 31.1


      Are you saying that National is responsible for all industrial accidents that occur in its term?

  32. vto 32

    Tom Scott’s cartoon today.

    If you know the landscape, you’ll know he is spot on.

    (can’t seem to link it but check it out)

  33. vto 33

    why do the posts end up up here?

  34. B 34

    Yes, but this is not just specific to the mining industry. It’s systemic. We’ve cut out ‘official’ safety inspections in ALL our industries, which is a key reason why we kill and injure our workers at a far higher rate than other comparable countries. Others are improving & NZ is going backwards:


    Unlike other jurisdictions, the ideologically driven HSE Act, even as amended by Labour, has almost complete ‘self-regulation’ as its guiding principle, producing a lot of box ticking but little actual safety observance.

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