Pike River Mine Would’ve Been Illegal In Australia
Pike River Mine would’ve been illegal in Australia, or in most first world countries for that matter.
Ean Higgins, the old-school Australian journalist vilified in New Zealand for asking “difficult questions” at the Pike River disaster press conferences and called a “tosspot” and “boorish” by Gerry Brownlee, was one of the journalists who managed yesterday to elicit a **confession from the NZ Prime Minister that conditions at the Pike River Coal Mine would have been illegal in Australia.
The repercussions of that bombshell are still being felt on both sides of the Tasman this morning. In today’s Australian Higgins writes
NEW Zealand Prime Minister John Key yesterday came under attack after admitting the country’s mine safety laws were deficient, with unions and the Labour opposition saying he should have recognised the fact earlier and already acted to correct it.
Mr Key also faced renewed criticisms of having been too close to the Pike River Coal company, defending it since the November explosion which killed 29 men including two Australians.
Since the Pike River disaster, Mr Key and his Energy Minister, Gerry Brownlee, had consistently defended New Zealand’s coalmine regulations as being at least as good as Australia’s.
But in an exclusive interview with The Australian published yesterday, Mr Key said the Pike River mine would have been illegal in Australia, and that after the imminent royal commission into the disaster, changes to mine safety regulations would be made.
Labour leader Phil Goff yesterday seized on Mr Key’s admission, describing it as an “unbelievable about-face”.
“If John Key has new evidence about serious safety issues in our mines, he should take action now to address those concerns,” Mr Goff said. “If he doesn’t, he should wait for the royal commission to make its recommendations.”
The union movement has noted that Mr Brownlee, in particular, went to some lengths to defend Pike River Coal’s safety record in the days after the explosion…read more here
It is astonishing that Key has made this admission, not least because it could prejudice evidence to the Royal Commission of Inquiry. Why the sudden about face, does he know his government will come under criticism during the inquiry and he is attempting to soften impact of that close to an election?
In May John Key rubbished claims by Helen Kelly, that his government was too close to the Pike River company after the disaster.
In her speech to the Labour congress in Wellington…Kelly said Pike River failed in its fundamental duty to provide a safe workplace and Key had then sat next to chief executive Peter Whittall at the memorial service for the 29 dead men.
“The real story of Pike River is that a group of shareholders from around the world including some very big multinational companies recognised the huge value of the coal in Pike River and decided to invest in mining. That’s fine. Whether they did this on the cheap and spent insufficient money on safety is a question on everyone’s lips and a matter for the inquiry.”
Key said her comments were “a bit distasteful”.
No one knew who was at fault yet and blame would be laid when the Royal Commission and Department of Labour reported back, he told Newstalk ZB…more here
Let us not forget the regulatory environment that allows companies to ‘operate on the cheap and spend insufficient money on safety’ existed on the present government’s watch. The Mines inspectorate may’ve been hacked away by the previous administation but the present one did nothing to improve the situation before approving surgical mining techniques at Pike River mine.
Serious shortage of mining inspectors and other safety concerns
A submission by the Pike River Coal company, as part of a review of New Zealand’s mine legislation, said there was a serious shortage of mining inspectors and raised other safety concerns.
According to TVNZ the report
“called for an increase in the coverage and the number of mine inspectors through realistic resourcing of the Department of Labour.
The submission says the number of qualified mine inspectors has dramatically dropped over the past decade.
(Kate) Wilkinson said New Zealand has two mine inspectors plus an expert.
Asked if that is enough, she said: “Well I have got no advice to suggest that it is inappropriate.”
But when asked to name the biggest safety concerns in the industry the Pike River Coal company said: “Levels of competence and experience of workers and contractors working underground is of concern. The inspectorate is seriously under-manned and under-resourced…”read the full news report here
Government Rejected Call to Bring Back Mine Inspectors
At the same time Radio NZ was reporting that the NZ government had rejected calls to re-instate a system of on-site mine safety inspectors.
Their report said that the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union called for the system to be re-introduced after it was scrapped in the the early 1990s, saying it provided vital protection for mine workers.
An international mine safety adviser, David Feickert, said the system is still in place in Australia and Britain, where they have a lower level of incidents.
Health and Safety Enforcement in NZ
Laat year this comment was left on Gordon Campbell’s blog on Scoop, the author indicated that NZ’s governmental Health and Safety inspectorate needed to be improved:
“NZ’s distinctive ‘self regulating’ HSE regime results in one of the highest workplace death and accident rates in the developed world – not just in mining. There is virtually no official monitoring of technical or safety compliance in any of the ‘low frequency, high risk’ fields, let alone routine workplace inspections. These types of event are what produce the headline grabbing ‘disasters’, as opposed to the scandalous and little publicised ‘attrition’ seen daily in our workplaces.
DOL’s cultural commitment to laissez faire HSE and the sinking lid on its monitoring and enforcement resources mean that further ‘disasters’ are inevitable, and meanwhile the slow carnage will also continue. The silent assent of each Government and the union movement since 1992 doesn’t bode well for addressing this central issue.”
One thing’s for sure – there are a lot of very frustrated miners, mining experts, technical crews and rescuers out there who feel very aggrieved about the way the Pike River mine incident was handled, who will forever be asking themselves what could have been done better.
It’s a disgrace that the government has take so long to admit that the legislation was at fault. But more than a change in the law is required – the mines inspectorate must be expanded and upskilled, mine monitoring must be improved, on site inspectors reintroduced and the competence and experience of people working in the mining industry must be on a par with other developed countries.
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You’re not in Australia now (An article in “The Australian”)
AN Australian who quit work at New Zealand’s Pike River mine four months before it exploded says he could not continue to work in such shocking and unsafe conditions.
Seven months after the disaster that killed 29 men, including two Australians, miner Peter Sattler has spoken out about his concerns for safety at the South Island coalmine, revealing he repeatedly complained about what he saw as poor practices.
“I left there primarily because of my concerns at safety of the place,” he told Television New Zealand. The respected mining supervisor, who has 35 years experience, worked at Pike River for a year, describing the processes and regulations there as backward compared with Australia.
“It was like going back in time, really,” he said. “There were quite a few things I saw there that sort of shocked me.”
Mr Sattler complained to management but was told: “You’re not in Australia, you’re in New Zealand.” He left last July… more here
** Death mine would’ve been illegal here (An article in “The Australian)
NEW Zealand Prime Minister John Key has for the first time acknowledged serious deficiencies in his country’s mining safety regulations, saying the Pike River coalmine where 29 men died “would be illegal in Australia”.
Faced with mounting allegations that New Zealand coalmines lack equipment and procedures that are compulsory in Australia, Mr Key vowed yesterday that there would be changes to mining safety laws.
In an exclusive interview with The Australian, Mr Key said his government wasn’t in a position to “give a full response” on mining safety until the conclusion of the royal commission into the methane gas explosion that ripped through the Pike River mine in November, but he said “we do have to ask the question” about safety standards.
He said the Pike River mine, which was a single-entry uphill mine, “couldn’t have been constructed in Australia” because it would have been “illegal”.
“There will be changes in New Zealand,” he said.
Mr Key’s admissions mark a reversal of the staunch defence of New Zealand’s mining regulations that he and Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee mounted immediately after the disaster… more here
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