Costs limit Pike's involvement in inquiry

PIKE River Coal lacks the funds to fully participate in the Royal Commission’s inquiry into the mining disaster last year, while the New Zealand Police are pursuing a “massive” homicide investigation.
Costs limit Pike's involvement in inquiry Costs limit Pike's involvement in inquiry Costs limit Pike's involvement in inquiry Costs limit Pike's involvement in inquiry Costs limit Pike's involvement in inquiry

Underground at Pike River Coal's namesake mine in New Zealand a few months before the mining disaster which claimed 29 lives.

Blair Price

Near the start of the preliminary hearing yesterday, Pike lawyer Stacey Shortall read out a statement which was captured by a 3News television crew in the Greymouth District Court.

“To date the company has not been able to secure alternative funding to enable it to prepare written briefs or to prepare documents for use at hearings in the manner sought,” she said.

Pike’s legal team reportedly said they would only be present for parts of the inquiry, which involves 15 weeks of hearings scheduled over the next few months until November 4.

The disaster at its namesake mine not only cost 29 lives but put the coking coal producer into receivership on December 13, with Pike holding a $NZ10.9 million cash position at the time.

PricewaterhouseCoopers partner John Fisk told Radio New Zealand that it could cost millions of dollars for Pike to fully participate in the inquiry, and the receivers had requested financial assistance from the New Zealand government.

There are also concerns that other inquiries underway might limit what evidence is presented to the commission, according to 3News.

The commission has previously stated “it is not conducting a trial of anyone”.

“Nor is it investigating whether anyone might face prosecution for breach of the law – that is a matter for the police and the Department of Labour.”

Police counsel Simon Moore reportedly told the commission its investigation into the disaster was a “massive” criminal case.

“It’s a homicide investigation of huge proportions,” he reportedly said.

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union represents miners in New Zealand and expressed concerns about the country’s mining laws for underground coal mines at the hearing yesterday.

The Royal Commission aims to identify the primary causes of the explosions at the mine during the third phase of hearings, which will run from August 8 to October 7.

The commission must report to New Zealand’s governor-general by March 31, 2012.

PwC aims to ink a sales agreement for Pike’s assets by the end of June.

The receivers are managing the mine stabilisation plan and are focused on establishing whether a roof fall occurred underground and is blocking off areas deeper into the mine.

Efforts to pump inert nitrogen throughout the whole mine have been unsuccessful.

Hopes of finding more survivors from the mine ended after the second underground explosion on November 24.

Damage from subsequent methane explosions and a fire underground further complicated the recovery effort.

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