What Safety Lessons Will Come From New Zealand’s Pike River Mining Disaster?
The families of the 29 men killed in the Pike River mine are adamant the various safety inquiries should be held locally, so that families can take a full part. “The truth will come out of what’s happened here,” said Mr Monk, a spokesman for the grieving relatives.
Safety professionals are already debating the Pike River investigation. According to a safety forum on the issue, the inquiries will include: “…a DoL Investigation (complete with an overseas mines expert), a Police Investigation, a Coronial Inquest, and a Royal Commission of Injury (complete with an overseas mining expert), that the only danger is that we need a system to put all of the investigation in order. ‘
These investigations must also look to coal mining lessons overseas. For example, in the US, 2010 was the worst year for coal mining since 1992. While we need to be careful when making comparisons with other countries, 48 miners died in the US in 2010. However, the US operates over 1500 coal mines which could indicate a higher level of safety systems and culture. “Many of the 2010 deaths were caused by gas explosions, moving equipment and other factors long thought to be under the industry’s control.”
Hopefully New Zealand investigations will discover Pike River did have the best systems available; that the Company did the best they could for their men in such a dangerous environment. However, if the safety lessons uncover some uncomfortable truth’s, it will be up to the Government and the Mining Industry to make a commitment to ensure Pike River does not happen again.