Pike River coal mine gas sensors covered in plastic bags; board claimed to be ‘unaware of mine’s dangers’

 Pike River Coal’s board says it would have acted if it knew of the rampant safety problems that affected the mine before it exploded, a Royal Inquiry has heard.

It comes as news emerges that plastic bags covered underground gas sensors and explosives were used in an unsafe manner, the NZ Herald reports.

The revelation came from Neville Rockhouse, who’s two sons worked at the mine during the tragedy and took the life of one of sons – Ben, and killed 28 other men.

His other son Daniel was one of only two men to survive the initial explosions.

Rockhouse stated that Daniel has told him of the safety breaches inside the mine, which included impairing the sensors diction ability.

He went on to say blasting was carried out to spread stone dust against the mine walls to prevent coal dust explosions.

Another New Zealand miner – Solid Energy, was also recently accused of a similar practice.

Solid Energy announced plans to hold urgent public meetings after claims the mine was switching off gas sensors in order to maintain production.

A miner at the company’s Huntly East Mine has told local media workers had previously put rags over methane sensors – which automatically switch off mine equipment – when gas levels reached 1.25 per cent.

According to Stuff the worker said high gas levels had been constantly alerting sensors and switching off equipment, frustrating some employers.

“They have to stop what they’re doing, walk to their station, reset the equipment, then walk back and continue what they’re doing,” he said.

He said gas levels above 1.25 per cent had been common in the poorly ventilated sections of the mine employees had been working in.

Despite Rockhouse’s allegations, the board of Pike River claim that if they were aware of the issues with the mine it would have reacted.

Former chairman John Down said "I think if we’d known about that, different things would have been done.

"However, the board was unaware of problems and would have never tolerated them, such as men bypassing safety devices on machines and high gas levels.

"There’ve been a lot of things that have come out that I’ve been horrified at," Dow said.

He went on to say that a lot of safety issues were not brought to the board’s attention.

"There were people on site who were aware of these issues or must have been because they’re written down. Why didn’t they raise them appropriately to the board?"

Dow added that the mine’s management failed to keep them informed.

These latest allegations from the board come as the former CEO of Pike River, Gordon Ward, declined to attend the inquiry.

Ward, who resigned just weeks before the underground explosions, did not attend as the commission is not able to force people living overseas to appear at the inquiry.


Send this to a friend