New evidence in Pike River coal mine tragedy

New Zealand's Pike River royal commission has announced it will look at new evidence from former miners.

Former Pike River CEO Peter Whitall's lawyer asked the commission to reopen to hear the evidence from former Pike River mine technical staff member Udo Renk and middle managers Terry Moynihan and Greg Borichevsky, the Herald Sun reports.

According to Whitall's lawyer Stacey Shortall, this new testimony was only uncovered after the commission closed in April.

Despite its closing, the findings will not be reported to the Governor General until the end of September.

It is believed that the tragedy was initially caused by a roof collapse which expelled methane gas around the mine, which then ignited due to a spark from the electrical system after the water pumps were turned on.

The resulting blast killed 29 men.

According to chairman of the inquiry, Graham Panckhurst, the mine's roof caved in at the goaf; pushing high amounts of methane into the rest of the mine.

Pike River was already noted as a particularly gassy coal mine, although it has been revealed that plastic bags were used to cover the gas sensors, ading to the tragedy.

It is believed that arcing from the mine's electrical system caused the methane and coal dust to ignite.

The mine reportedly exploded soon after Pike River control room officer Daniel Duggan switched on the water pumps, which had been turned off for maintenance.

Prior to the explosion, Duggan told the commission he spoke to who he believed was Scottish miner Malcolm Campbell.

Duggan stated that he spoke to the miners to inform them that water pumps were online again after maintenance, and that mining could restart.

Only seconds after Campbell reportedly said “Hello Dan, who are you looking for?”, Duggan responded and then an unidentified noise is heard.

He tried to make contact with other underground, but all intercom and phone communications were lost, along with mine power and gas monitoring equipment.

While Shortall has called for the reopening, she has not stated what the evidence may contain.

Her request was granted by the commission, which said the decision "highlights natural justice issues".

The decision to reopen the hearing will be made later this month.

The embattled coal mine has since been bought by fellow New Zealand coal miner Solid Energy.


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