The Pike River mine disaster was preventable and caused by the mine being used before it was ready, a Royal Commission has found.
The report comes close to two years after the air in the Pike River underground mine ignited, causing a series of deadly explosions that took the lives of 29 miners.
Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson resigned after the Royal Commission’s report was released yesterday.
The Commission found that Pike River’s ‘drive for coal production before the mine was ready created the circumstances within which the tragedy occurred.’
Reports of excess methane and other health and safety issues, including 21 reports of methane levels reaching explosive levels, were ignored for months, the Commission stated.
"The reports of excess methane continued up to the very morning of the tragedy. The warnings were not heeded."
Poor drainage and ventilation systems were also highlighted, with the report finding they ‘could not cope’ with everything that company was trying to do including driving roadways through coal and drilling into the coal seam.
The damning report also pointed to poor management of the mine and found the company’s board of directors did not ensure health and safety was properly managed.
“At the executive manager level there was a culture of production before safety at Pike River and as a result signs of the risk of an explosion were either not noticed or not responded to.”
"Mining should have stopped until the risks could be properly managed."
The report handed down sixteen key recommendations for tighter regulation and a greater focus on workplace safety across New Zealand.
Prime Minister John Key has apologised to the families of the lost miners, conceding the regulatory environment was not adequate.
"On behalf of the Government, I apologise to the families, friends and loved ones of the deceased men for the role this lack of regulatory effectiveness played in the tragedy, he said.
It is expected all of the sixteen recommendation handed down will be enacted by the Government.
Lyn Sims who lost her son Blair in the disaster described the report as ‘very damning’ and ‘very thorough.’ She wants the recommended changes to happen as soon as possible, stuff.co.nz reported.
“We live in hope,’’ she said.
Olivia Monk whose brother was amongst the victims said there was ‘more to be done.’
“We’ve been fighting to get these boys justice. It’s 29 lives. It’s not over yet. They’re still not home,’’ she said.