Pike River mine inquiry begins

Commission chairman Judge Graham Panckhurst advised a gallery comprising the families of the 29 victims of a methane explosion at the mine last November that the commission would conduct a comprehensive investigation.
?No one can reverse the tragic events of November last year,? he said. ?What we can do is find out what happened, why it happened and what must change for the future good.?
The inquiry involves over 20 interested parties, including Pike River Coal, New Zealand?s Departments of Labour and Conservation, unions and the families of the 29 victims. It will examine New Zealand?s current mine regulations, Pike River Coal?s operational and management practices, the cause of the explosions and the effectiveness of the search and rescue operation.
Nigel Hampton QC, representing the New Zealand Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, told the hearing that New Zealand?s mine regulations were 20 years out of date and should draw on Australia?s ?substantial? mine safety knowledge to prevent a repeat of the tragedy.
?Our members want to see a significant increase in the safety and health standards required for working in mines in New Zealand,? he said. ?There?s a body of expertise and counsel in Australia that would be of use to the commission.?
A lawyer for the Pike River Coal company, Stacey Shortall, advised the hearing that the firm did not have the financial resources to be as fully involved in the inquiry ?as it would like?. Pike River Coal is in receivership.
Sources: The Age, The Australian

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