Multiple warnings over Pike River mine’s safety

A New Zealand mine expert told the Pike River inquiry he gave multiple warnings over safety risks at the coal mine.

Harry Bell, the former chief inspector of coal mines, told the inquiry he had given repeated warnings to management over the mine’s lack of methane gas ventilation, according to The Press.

Bell worked at the mine between 2006 and 2007 as a tunnel supervisor.

He told the inquiry he became concerned with the approach the mine operator was taking.

Management intended to mine in an area where gas leaked potential was high, with Bell saying he was shocked at the decision, and that the mine was not sufficiently ventilated in the area.

He labelled this decision as ‘madness’ due to the gas risk.

“Pike River Coal did not seem to understand the seriousness of the gas issue," he said.

The former supervisor recommended fans and piping be installed to remove the gas, but these recommendations were not followed.

He said the management were aware of a number of gas ignitions inside the mine in late 2008, and he was “furious and alarmed”, telling the region’s mine inspector to shut down the coal mine.

The levels of training at the mine also came under scrutiny.

Yesterday, the Inquiry was told that extra training recommended for the mine was not carried out.

The Commission was also today given information criticising the level of training contractors.

The report called "A review of the Department of Labour’s interaction with Pike River Coal Ltd" was written by two Australian mining experts who said the training "was an area where the company… failed miserably".

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