New Zealand miners killed by corporate greed

This video is called ONE News: Pike River Miners Confirmed Dead.

By Tom Peters:

New Zealand miners declared dead after another massive explosion

24 November 2010

Twenty-nine coal miners, ranging in age from 17 to 62, have been declared dead following a second massive methane explosion at 2:37pm today deep inside the Pike River Coal mine on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Superintendent Gary Knowles, head of the rescue operation, told a press conference that the blast had been “horrific” and that “it is our belief no-one survived and everyone will have perished”.

The loss of life at Pike River is the largest number of deaths in a mining disaster in New Zealand since 1914.

Fears had been growing overnight for the survival of the miners, who were trapped underground last Friday. Family members had become increasingly angry over repeated delays in the rescue operation, and over the fact that authorities withheld from them until yesterday chilling video footage that showed the full impact of the extremely powerful initial explosion that took place at least 2.5 kilometres into the mine shaft. ….

Relatives of the miners had expressed their anger and frustration to the media about the delayed rescue and lack of timely international coordination. Dean Hardcastle, an uncle of one of the miners, told TV3 yesterday: “We’re told from President Obama down that we’ve got full international support, that every piece of equipment is on standby.” Yet, Hardcastle said, the rescue coordinators had waited five days before arranging for the specialised robot to be sent from Western Australia. “Why is it not already here? And another one behind it?” Ross Harvey, the miner’s stepfather, was frustrated that drilling on a second bore hole had just started. “They could’ve sourced the [second] drill and had it on standby … they could’ve had it drilling while the first drill was going,” he said.

Geoff Valli, brother of 62-year-old Keith Valli, the oldest miner trapped at Pike River, said it was time to send a rescue team into the mine, no matter the risks. Valli told Radio New Zealand this morning he’d had a “gutsful” of hearing the same excuses from police day after day.

Lawrie Drew, the father of missing 21-year-old miner Zen Drew, told the New Zealand Herald today that relatives were annoyed they had not been shown security camera footage of Friday’s mine blast until yesterday. “The anger is getting worse with a lot of other people. I’m not angry, I’m annoyed. The truth wasn’t told from the beginning,” Drew said.

Earlier, Drew said the families wanted confirmation about the fate of the men and felt they were being given a “PR spiel” by authorities. “We don’t want bullshit, we want answers, we’re sick of these meetings,” he told reporters, after attending the families’ twice-daily briefing with rescue coordinators yesterday.

This afternoon, as Drew left the briefing at which he was informed his son had been declared dead, he accused authorities of missing “a window of opportunity” to mount a rescue effort in the hours following the first explosion.

Reports continue to emerge suggesting that Pike River compromised workers’ health and safety in order to continue extracting the mine’s highly profitable supply of coking coal. The Westport News yesterday reported that a former mine worker believed he was made ill by methane poisoning. He had quit his job at Pike River after being sick for three weeks, experiencing dizziness, high temperature and disorientation. The paper reported: “One of his mates at the Pike mine had experienced similar symptoms and was still on sick leave after about six weeks. Other miners had also been sick, but he was unsure of their symptoms.” The ex-miner said deputies at the mine had tested methane levels, “but we never got told what the levels were”.

Several experts have reported that the amount of methane in the Pike River mine was dangerously high due to its location on the Hawera fault line, which acts as a conduit for the gas. Constant ventilation is needed to prevent methane from building up to explosive levels, and there have been reports that Pike River’s ventilation system had experienced faults in the past.

Pike River chairman John Dow told Radio New Zealand yesterday that in the event of a power outage shutting down the ventilators, miners “have standard practices for withdrawing to a fresh air base until the power is restored”. If power was out for a protracted period, he said, the mine was evacuated. These comments suggest that the mine had no back-up power supply. Davitt McAteer, former head of the US Mine Safety and Health Administration, told Radio New Zealand that in order to prevent the build-up of methane, mine ventilation must be connected to more than one power source. “If you have a power failure you need to have a second source of energy to keep the ventilation system moving,” McAteer said. …

Both the Labour and National parties have played a key role in collaborating with mining companies to undermine safety standards. In 1992, a National government dropped the requirement for mines to have worker-elected safety check inspectors, and Labour failed to reintroduce the requirement during its nine years in office from 1999 to 2008. As a result, workers on mine sites have had no independent representative through whom they can raise safety concerns.

A mine worker killed Tuesday in a Harlan County, Kentucky mine brings to 47 the number of US coal mining fatalities this year: here.

1 thought on “New Zealand miners killed by corporate greed

  1. Pingback: New Zealand government breaks post-mining disaster promises | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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