Time to let Pike River victims rest

November 7, 2014

It’s been nearly four years since the Pike River mine disaster.

Solid Energy’s decision to not re-enter the mine will have disappointed some family members, but the company could not risk more lives.

The father of one of the Pike River Mine explosion victims says Solid Energy’s decision to stay out of the ruined mine will finally let his family move on.

Solid Energy board chairwoman Pip Dunphy said today “potentially fatal risk factors” made the mine too dangerous to re-enter.

Geraldine couple Rod and Christine Holling lost their 41-year-old son, Richard, as a result of an explosion at the West Coast mine on November 19, 2010. The Hollings have expressed their wish for Richard’s remains to be left untouched in the mine, saying that knowing where his remains were allowed them “closure”.

Other families of miners killed in the mine issued a joint statement today expressing disappointment with the state-owned mining company’s decision not to recover the miners’ remains, but Rod Holling said the announcement was “good news”.

“Our biggest fear is that someone else will get killed [re-entering the mine] and who will be responsible?” 

Holling was sceptical of former UK mining inspector Bob Stevenson’s claims the mine could be safely entered. He also believed mining companies would learn lessons about health, safety and mine construction from the disaster. . .

Learning and acting on the lessons could save other lives, and not just in mining. Rebecca Macfie’s book on the disaster has lessons for every business.

Families of the Pike River Mine victims met this morning with mine owner Solid Energy and Prime Minister John Key, only to be told the plan to re-enter the mine tunnel would not go ahead.

Their faces were strained and tears were visible after leaving the meeting, even though they had gone in almost certain the news would be bad.

Bernie Monk, whose son Michael died in the mine, said he would continue to investigate “to a certain degree” but acknowledged the fight might be over.

“I’ve got to start asking myself, do I want to go through another three or four years of agony.” . . .

I hope the answer to that question is no.

Prime Minister John Key has said the taxpayer would fund a civil case against parties involved in the disaster it Crown Law thinks it could succeed.

That would help the families and friends who are, justifiably, angry that no-one has been charged over the actions which led to the disaster.

Whether or not that happens, the decision not to re-enter the mine means it is time to let the 29 victims rest where they died, difficult as that might be for those who loved them.


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