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The buck stops with the directors: Pike River

Written By: - Date published: 11:00 am, April 19th, 2013 - 9 comments
Categories: capitalism, disaster, john key, Mining, news, slippery, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

Yesterday, amidst all the other things happening in the news, this appeared with relatively little attention.  Pike River found guilty of negligence, leading to the death of of 29 miners: miners too young to die, leaving behind bereaved families, friends and a mourning community.

Pike River Coal has been convicted of all charges arising from the November 2010 mining tragedy that killed 29 men.

“In this case there were fundamental breaches of the Health and Safety in Employment Act which led to the unnecessary deaths of 29 men,” Judge Jane Farish said in the Greymouth District Court today.

Among all the other implications of this finding, this should be a wake up call to the NZ fourth estate MSM. Remember when Peter Whittall was uncritically given a platform in the MSM to promote himself and Pike River as a caring company?  And remember when John Key was at his side, condoning the whole PR sham?


The court findings and the (to be announced) fines, are welcomed with sorrow. One News reports:

Fines dished out to the former mining company in charge of the Pike River Mine will “never” be enough to make up for the deaths of 29 men, the father of a victim says….

But Lawrie Drew, father of one of the victims, said while it was a positive outcome, it would never be enough.

“We have to move on, and this is one good step because someone has been found culpable, but the punishments will never fit what happened,” he told ONE News.

And the ultimate cause is greed, and the company chasing profits – more important to them than the lives of its workers. The CTU is calling for law changes to make company directors responsible for not protecting the health and safety of their workers.

The CTU has welcomed the verdict, and called for a law change to make company directors liable where their company was negligent.

“Pike River Coal has gone under as a failed company that has left behind death and debt. We need to change the law to make the directors personally liable where their company was negligent,” CTU president Helen Kelly said.

“They were in charge, and the company was clearly negligent in their duties to the men down the mine. The current law protects negligent companies and needs to change.

She said that “maximum penalties need to be imposed” to try to bring “a sense of justice” to the families, and added that they should also receive compensation and reparation for their loss.

Helen Kelly on Morning Report this morning:


Well said, Helen.

h/t vto


9 comments on “The buck stops with the directors: Pike River”

  1. dewithiel 1

    These are the charmers in question (as per the Pike River annual report for 2010):

    1. Mr John Dow
    Independent Director and Chairman
    John Dow, a geologist, has had 42 years experience as a successful greenfields explorer, exploration manager, and mining executive in New Zealand, Australia, Antarctica, Southeast Asia, the United States, and Latin America. His most recent executive appointment was as chairman and managing director of Newmont Australia Limited, the Australasian subsidiary of Newmont Mining Corporation. He is currently the non-executive chairman of Troy Resources NL, non-executive chairman of Glass Earth Gold Limited and chairman of Straterra Inc.
    2. Gordon Ward *
    Executive Director
    Gordon Ward, with 23 years experience in the resource sector,
    is the managing director of Pike River. He was appointed to the Board in July 2006 and made chief executive in January 2007. He was previously New Zealand Oil & Gas Limited’s (NZOG) general manager, managing NZOG’s involvement in the Pike River, Tui oil and Kupe oil/condensate fields.
    3. Professor Raymond (Ray) Meyer
    Non Executive Director
    Ray Meyer, with 41 years experience in engineering, is a former director of the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand Limited, Transpower New Zealand Limited, Watercare Services Limited, Auckland Uni Services Limited, and chairman of the Forest Research Institute. He is currently deputy chairman of NZOG.
    4. Stuart Nattrass
    Independent Director
    Stuart Nattrass has 17 years experience in international financial markets, principally foreign exchange risk management, and is a director of a number of public and private companies.
    5. Dipak Agarwalla
    Non-Executive Director
    Dipak Agarwalla comes from a family with over 10 decades of coal mining experience in India. In 1994, he promoted Saurashtra Fuels Pvt Ltd, which today is one of India’s largest merchant coke producers. The groups have interests in pig iron, infrastructure and coal mines. He has held various positions in multilateral trade organisations, including Indian Met Coke Manufacturers Association.
    6. Roy Antony (Tony) Radford
    Non-Executive Director
    Tony Radford has 26 years experience in resource company management and has spent most of his career in the petroleum and mining industries. He is a founding director, and the current chairman of NZOG, and has been a director of Pike River since 1983.
    7. Arun Kumar Jagatramka
    Non-Executive Director
    Arun Kumar Jagatramka is the chairman and managing director of Gujarat NRE Coke Limited. Appointed as an honorary NSW “Sydney Ambassador” to India by the Govt of New South Wales, Australia, he is a member of a number of boards including Port Kembla Coal Terminal, Australian Coal Research Ltd and the Wollongong Hawks. He is also a member of the NSW Minerals Council.
    8. Sanjay Loyalka
    Alternate Director for Arun Jagatramka
    Sanjay Loyalka has over 22 years experience in various functional roles including CEO and general management. He has corporate finance experience in mining and metals, manufacturing and logistics-based industries in a multi-national environment. He was instrumental in the development of the Aditya Birla Group’s operations within Australia.

    • Murray Olsen 1.1

      How can John Dow have experience as a successful greenfields explorer, exploration manager, and mining executive in Antarctica, when mining there is banned by international treaty? Lovely people, those who rape the planet and let workers die. I’d be happy to see them rot in prison rather than escape their liabilities through business structures. Their earnings are basically the proceeds of crime, yet I don’t suppose Garth McVicar will be much of a victims’ advocate in this case.

  2. vto 2

    So where are these directors and shareholders and managers?

    A New Zealand court has found their company guilty of causing death, yet they have no comment?

    They didn’t even attend court. They have all made statements rejecting any responsibility despite the enquiry and now the courts finding that their actions caused the deaths. I am flabbergasted actually. They reflect on the integrity and standing of all company directors and owners unfortunately.

    Weak individuals. Cowardly and yellow-bellied.

    Hiding behind the limited liability nature of a company to an extent well beyond that originally intended for the limited liability company.



    what would their parents think? eh? ask yourself. what would your own parents say if it was you?

    • rosy 2.1

      Their parents have likely made excuses for them their whole lives.

      So, what’s the upshot of this? Fines on a bankrupt company, is that it?

    • Colonial Viper 2.2

      Corporate directors…collect the big fees, half a days work a week…negligence, incompetence and risk free returns.

      Maybe if we pay them more we would get better performance? ***lolz***

  3. Michael Morris 3

    How can a COMPANY be guilty of any criminal action. A company literally has no soul (or body either, being just a legal construct). Only individuals can be negligent, greedy or malicious, and these are the ones who should be held accountable.

    • lprent 3.1

      A romantic notion. Curiously, that isn’t how the courts tend to view it. They aren’t much into romantic views of the world.

      Nor is it how the law is written. There is considerable protection for the boards of directors in companies provided they stick to duties laid down for them in legislation. Since most of those are concerned with running trustworthy accounts, providing the required accounts, and are generally concerned with financial matters; they are usually relatively safe from criminal prosecution unless they as an individual issue an order transgressing criminal law.

      However if they either as a board or as individuals issue an order that says something like “we need better productivity” then they’ll generally have pushed the prosecution down the poor fool of a manager who actually orders or does something dangerous and illegal.

    • Colonial Viper 3.2

      How can a COMPANY be guilty of any criminal action.

      Companies are legal entities with legal responsibilities. It’s not a brainteaser.

  4. Michael Morris 4

    The law can deem anything to be anything but it doesn’t make it so in reality. Convicting a company for a crime makes as much sense as convicting locusts in a criminal court for damaging crops. Something that was often done in the middle ages.

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