An inquiry into the Pike River mine disaster will leave ‘no stone unturned’ and seek to provide answers for the grieving families of lost miners.
Prime Minister John Keys expressed his heartfelt condolences to families yesterday and promised a commission of inquiry with an international mining expert, a judge, and others to be constituted immediately.
The New Zealand Accidental Compensation Corporation (ACC) is expected to make the biggest single payout to the families of the 29 men who were killed when two explosions ripped through the coal mine on the south coast of the country.
Questions surrounding the investigation include how the unsafe levels of methane gas went undetected.
The cousin of one of the killed miners, who himself has retired from a career in mining, says the build up of gas which caused the explosion should have been detected earlier.
He refers to the “tube bundle” systems used in Queensland mines, which feed air to the surface for automatic testing, and sound an alarm if the levels of dangerous gases is too high.
John Dow, the chair main of Pike River Coal says the system used is not specifically the “tube bundle” system, but is something similar.
If the proper procedures were in place, many people are asking, why the levels were not detected and the miners removed before the first explosion.
According to proper mining practice, mineworkers wear a sensor that provides their location to monitors on the ground.
In briefings and news conferences after the initial explosion, authorities did not seem to know the exact location of the miners, leaving questions about whether they were wearing their locator devices.
The practical questions are concerned with whether cost cuts, incompetence or negligence were to blame for the tragedy, and if so, those responsible will be faced with criminal action.
The other solution is that the gas was not building up slowly, but rather a sudden torrent rushed through the mine, leaving workers unprepared and unable to escape in time.
For families and loved ones of the miners, it may come as little consolation that their deaths were just a tragic accident nobody could have predicted.