NZ miner pleads guilty on injured coal miner

State-owned coal miner Solid Energy confessed it neglected to keep one its miners safe after he was crushed by tonnes of coal in July last year.

The internationally experienced Spring Creek miner was hit by a one metre wedge of coal, which fell out of a development face in the underground West Coast coalmine near Runanga.

At the time of the accident, a miner colleague said a team of four men had just completed supporting the tunnel roof with steel bolts and were putting away bolting gear.

It was thought the coal miner had spinal injuries after the rockfall.

The English miner in his 50s had shifted to work at the now abandoned mine. He was at Christchurch Hospital for six weeks with numbness and constricted movement in his left arm, his colleague said.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment resolved to prosecute Solid Energy under the Health and Safety in Employment Act for neglecting to put in all mechanisms needed to keep the miner from harm, reported.

According to a Solid Energy spokesman yesterday, the company pled guilty last month through the Greymouth District Court registrar, indicating neither side had appeared nor has a summary of facts been publicly read.

One charge alone could mean a maximum penalty of $250,000 a ministry spokesman said yesterday.

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union’s West Coast area organiser Garth Elliott wants the court to enforce a considerable repatriation order due to the financial burden of the accident on the miner.

“His family has been through quite a hardship. He was partially paralysed. I think at the end of the day, the company knows there were shortcomings (at the mine),” he said.

The injured miner could not return to work after the accident because of the serious injuries, depriving him and his family of an income.

The ministry’s high hazards unit handed a prohibition notice on the mine’s development areas, which shut the mine for two days.

The company announced just two months later it had to suspend the mine due to financial trouble, resulting in 230 redundancies.

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