Pike inquiry to focus on hydro mining, OH&S

A JAPANESE hydro mining expert is among nine witnesses set to give evidence at the third phase of the Royal Commission inquiry into last year’s Pike River mine disaster, scheduled to begin next week.
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Underground at the Pike River mine months before tragedy struck in November, 2010. Image courtesy of PRC.

Lauren Barrett

It follows phase two of the inquiry into the disaster – which killed 29 men – that wrapped up on September 23 and revealed major flaws in the search and recovery effort at the mine.

Also due to give evidence next week will be mine rescue specialists, Department of Labour health and safety inspectors and Pike River Coal former deputy Stephen Wylie.

Commission chairsperson Justice Graham Panckhurst said the first fortnight of the hearings, scheduled to run from November 14-25, would focus on hydro mining issues and the external oversight of health and safety at the mine.

“We have around six weeks of hearings set aside to help us answer the wider question ‘what happened at Pike River?’,” Panckhurst said.

“This will include examining the cause of the explosions, the company’s operational and management practices and the regulatory oversight of the mining operation.”

Phase three of the inquiry will span over three months, so as to avoid interfering with possible criminal prosecutions stemming from the disaster.

The final date for the inquiry has been set for February 17 next year.

Phase three of the hearings in February will look at the cause of the explosions and mine systems, with a focus on what contributed to the initial explosion on November 19 last year.

In December the hearings will examine the safety culture at the mine in relation to management, miners and contractors.

Panckhurst acknowledged the first week of the inquiry was commencing on the same week of the Pike River anniversary.

“We will be only too aware of this as we reconvene in Greymouth and are underway with the hearings,” he said.

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