Sunday, February 5, 2012

Why Are 29 Men Still Inside the Pike River Mine?:



On 19 November 2010 in Greymouth, on the West Coast of the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand, twenty nine men went to work at the Pike River mine; they never came home. As of today, they still remain inside the mine, in spite of John Key's promises to the families that the men would be recovered and returned to them.

Those men lay silent somewhere inside the depths of that mine to this very day. Their families and friends are not permitted to go anywhere near the place where their men were killed, where they still lay where they fell, all that time ago. This could have been any one of us, our father, our son, our brother. These men can't speak up for themselves any more, and neither can their families, for legal reasons, or so they're told.  New Zealanders should speak up and write to our Members of Parliament and the editors of local papers and insist that John Key keep his promises to the families of these men. Now, not next year, or the year after.

To this very day, there are 29 families and countless good friends who are totally devastated by this tragedy. Wives who loved, and were loved by, their husbands, children who absolutely adored their fathers - children who never even got to meet their daddies - and parents who cannot now even give their child a decent burial.  Birthdays and anniversaries silently pass.

The Americans spend a lot of money recovering every single one of their men who fall in battle. These men didn't go to war, they went to work. And they deserve a lot better than this from our government. What's being revealed in the evidence given at the inquiry makes it clear that the mine should not have been operating and that a lot of people knew it shouldn't have been operating, because it wasn't safe.  It was allowed to go on operating in an unsafe state because of financial pressures from people who had a stake in the mine and because of systemic incompetence and lack of fiduciary accountability involving public servants and the Dept of Labour, and the apathy of many elected representatives, as well as corporate management, amounting to either corruption or gross negligence, causing the loss of twenty nine lives.  Twenty nine working men died because of pressure from investors and shareholders, and the deregulation of the mining industry and lack of inspection processes and compliance procedures.

For the second time, twenty nine families woke up on Valentines Day without the one they loved. What these families have lost is absolutely irreplaceable. The attitude of this government is unacceptable - these families deserve better than the ignorance of John Key and his Ministers - ignorance being a state of ignoring things - ignoring promises that have been made.  In September 2012, TVNZ reported the following:
"Key said his position on returning the miners to their loved ones has never changed. He said he promised from the outset that he would do everything he could to recover the bodies and that promise remains."  Families are angry that Key refuses to help.
Key also told the families of the miners that he would discuss with Cabinet extending the funding of the families' legal team beyond the Royal Commission.

"I've always said if there aren't enough resources from Oil and Gas they can come talk to the Government, it's not an issue of money." 

Instead of accepting some responsibility for the disaster, the government allowed the receivers to make the retrieval of the miners a condition of the sale and to dictate the terms of those conditions.  In July 2011, Acting Minister of Energy and Resources, Hekia Parata welcomed the receivers’ decision:
"The Government supports the approach being taken by the Pike River receivers to seek a commitment from any purchaser of the mine to take all reasonable steps to recover the miners’ bodies."
“We are seeking to proceed in a way that offers the best chance of recovering the miners’ bodies, and restoring to the West Coast a working mine at Pike River, if it is possible to do so.”
"Key said he will call the receivers personally to discuss a recovery plan but just who will implement it will not be known until there is a new owner for Pike River Mine."  Key will call them personally - vague and unconvincing.
Engineer Bruce McLean was commissioned by the families to write a report examining possible issues around reclaiming the mine tunnel and recovering the men's bodies.

His report concludes that if there is a successful sale of the mine, recovery of the bodies could be completed between July 2015 and June 2017, dependent on a number of factors, including completion of a new shaft to establish ventilation in the mine. The inquiry has revealed utterly damning evidence regarding the ventilation system, and management of the ventilation system or rather lack of management of it.

His estimated time frames include conditions attached to the sale, such as potential Oversees Investment Office approval, transfer of permits, and agreeing on recovery obligations.

New Zealand Oil and Gas (NZOG), hold significant shareholdings in Pike River.

"In such a case the role of the government would become 'critical'" says Counsel for the families, Nicholas Davidson QC. The role of the government IS critical and John Key has shown NO leadership whatsoever regarding this matter - he's avoided it as much as he possibly can.

It's bad enough that the families and not the government had to commission the report in the first place, but it's totally unacceptable that a decision as to who will be responsible for the retrieval of the deceased miners hasn't even been made yet!  The Families have seen camera footage of intact bodies within the mine, contrary to speculation to the contrary.

The government is clearly being remiss in its duties by allowing a financial and not moral decision to be made. John Key should not be disregarding the wishes of the miners families and the many thousands of other New Zealander's who want some closure on Pike River mine.  Having the retrieval dependent on the sale of Pike River when this might never eventuate, or while the sale can be made conditionally, with no assurance of any commitment to a recovery of the men, is completely unacceptable. It's just business as usual, trading the mine as a commodity, with the bodies still inside, what an indignity! There are one or two amateur "advocates" pushing the barrow of "let's sell the mine to Solid Energy as fast as we can because there's no money for a recovery unless we do", and we should be taking a closer look at some of them, and their backgrounds.  We should also be taking a close look at how Solid Energy has stripped the assets, made workers redundant and closed several mines ("Why is Solid Energy acting like an American coal robber baron from the 1920s?" - Greymouth Star 1 October 2012), putting many people out of work and causing a great deal of further hardship in many communities around New Zealand, for the further benefit of shareholders and investors.  We should also have a close look at who the investors and shareholders are and other information about this matter.

What's been revealed at the inquiry, and during the long period of time since the so called "accident" is extremely serious indeed. We had a Hikoi to parliament on Tuesday 7th February to protest for justice for the 29 men in the Pike River mine and their Families, and other related matters, to deliver letters to John Key from the families of some of the twenty nine men inside the Pike River mine, and we fully intend to continue advocating for the families of these twenty nine men to be heard, and for John Key to honour his promises to these families and do what he promised them he'd do, which is recover their men as soon as possible. It's up to him and his government and the receivers to hurry up and get on with it instead of posturing and posing and having little tea parties with John Banks etc.

It appears there was more to that tea party media stunt than met the eye and that both Key and Banks were well aware of their illegal involvement - and the involvement of the Key government in the Dotcom debacle, and probably rather more preoccupied with covering their asses on that matter  than doing much about the Pike mine explosions.

To add insult to injury, it's now been reported (by Laura Mills of the Greymouth Star) that so many of the robots sent into the mine after the explosions have remained inside the mine unrecovered that the mine has been dubbed a "robotic Bermuda Triangle", and the Australian owners of one of the missing robots has billed the receivers for it, while the Families still wait for their men.    

For correction of any information please email kateraue@gmail.com or leave a comment below. Please support the Trust set up to assist the families of these men, link is just under the pictures of the men, below.



The Labour Department's probe into Pike River coalmine's fatal blast has uncovered some major failings with gas and ventilation controls, the inquiry into the tragedy has heard.

An expert mining panel investigating what caused the November 2010 explosion for the department found the underground West Coast mine had poor gas management and ventilation.

Australian mine safety consultant David Reece, one of the panel of five experts, gave evidence at the royal commission into the deaths of 29 men at the mine.

PM John Key and Pike River Coal Manager Peter Whittall
Reece
Mines expert David Reece
Outside the inquiry, Bernie Monk, spokesman for some Pike families, said it was heartbreaking to hear the mine's problems and he had shed tears listening to Reece.

"Our men were relying a hell of a lot on these mine managers and designers and everything else to protect them and they were let down extremely badly," Monk said.

"It brought tears to my eyes sometimes just to hear some of the things that they had to put up with and they've been sadly let down."

This week was the first time parts of the department's investigation report had been publicly aired since it led to three parties being charged with health and safety failures over the men's deaths.

Reece said methane in the mine reached explosive levels at times, blaming its inadequate gas management and ventilation. Pike River Coal should have cut back on mining until it sorted out its ongoing ventilation problems.

Five areas were being mined by November 19, 2010, although most were not operating when the blast occurred. Gas levels in the mine that day showed the ventilation was inadequate, he said.

Reece said the mine's gas management "flies in the face of what you should have".

If urgent improvements failed to work, the mine should have shut down until ventilation and gas management were improved, he said.

He had never seen a mine with an underground ventilation fan like at Pike River. The fan was plagued with problems once it began operating on October 22 and was finally commissioned only nine days before the blast.

It was vulnerable to damage if an explosion occurred, which would stop ventilation.

Australian regulations used to specify fans could be only on the surface, Reece said.

"Even in a surface situation, it's still your primary means of controlling the atmosphere in the mine and giving people maximum opportunity for escape. It is one of the fundamental pieces of equipment you must rely on."

Reece said Pike's main ventilation system of one intake and one return was not uncommon in New Zealand coalmines but considered unacceptable for anything but initial development in Australia.

Some of the mine's ventilation devices were "substandard" in controlling explosive gases.

He said the panel found it unacceptable workers would have to climb a 108-metre vertical ventilation shaft to escape as its second emergency exit.

In Australia, there was a strong push for mines to have three entries or exits."
________________________________________________________

Some of the recent evidence given at the inquiry:
This evidence was given on Friday 10 February 2012, by David Reece, a mining expert, engaged by the Department of Labour to provide an expert report:

Q: "Were you aware that after that meeting on the 13th of January 2011, to at least May 2011, that there was very little, if anything, done by the police, Mines Rescue, Department of Labour, MRS, to actually produce a plan to recover the drift?"
A "Look I didn't follow it closely as far as what they were doing, but I take your point. I'm happy to accept it.
Q: Well, on what date were you formally engaged by the Department of Labour to provide an expert report?
A: In January.
Q: In January?
A: Yes.
Q: So were you aware of the meeting of the families, the Department of Labour, the Police, MRS, the receivers and the Union on the 23rd of May last year in Christchurch on these issues?
A: Not specifically.

I’ll just give you a moment to read that document Mr Reece. If you could highlight the first few paragraphs please Ms Basher, so it’s easy to read? Have you seen that document before Mr Reece?
No, I haven’t
Has advice ever been sought from you or the expert panel insofar as you’re aware on what the Department of Labour could do to assess the process and fulfil what it agreed to in that document?
Not from me, no.
Are you aware of advice being sought from anyone else in the expert panel that you work with?
No, I’m not.

‎"And from the perspective of the families, safe evacuation of men in an emergency as a mines system? [regarding absolute priorities of mine management]
Certainly from an Australian underground coalmining perspective, it’s one of the critical items.
So within those seven top mine systems, we've struggled to find anything in the report which is positive about them?
Our brief again was to look at failures so we weren't doing a full treatment of it but yes.
Well, in highlighting the deficiencies and identifying them, is there anything within those mine management systems which is in a general sense positive?
Sorry?
Is in a general sense positive. Have you found anything within those analysis of those systems which you can say, “Well, yes, this has been well done, that’s best practice which can be used and is consistent with Australian practice”?
Gee that’s a very broad question. They had semblances of the system. They had items in place. There was consideration of the items. I suppose the comment goes to the deficiencies in them. Just because you’ve got the system and it hasn’t been finished off doesn’t necessarily make it a good system. That’s the point. So it’s a case of finishing it off and living through it and implementing it.
Thank you Mr Reece for your answers."

Cross examination:
" I'm glad Mr Raymond summarised the headings of those deficiencies with you because that’s really what I was going to do for a start Mr Reece. And to lead on to this that you’ve been a mine manager for something like eight years I think or perhaps longer?
Yes, thereabouts.
Thereabouts and a senior mines inspector in Queensland including acting chief inspector?
Yes.
Covering about two and a half, three years?
Yes.
Can you contemplate a mine in the state that Pike was, the deficiencies you’ve mentioned, can you contemplate a mine like that in Queensland being developed in that way let alone being put into production?
I've pretty much said at the outset that a mine like that wouldn't have existed.
No. Regulators in Queensland wouldn't have allowed it to exist?
They wouldn't have allowed it from the point of view that the egress potential, primarily, and some of the other installations but predominantly the ventilation installations.
1020
I know it’s hypothetical, but if you’d come into a mine in the state that Pike was with your experience say wearing the hat of a regulator, an inspector?
Yeah.
You'd have said, “Shut it down. You've got to sort all of these deficiencies out before you can even think of going into production?”

‎"If I'd walked in in the condition that it was, I would hope that I would. It’s all hindsight so to some extent that’s a bit tough, but really my primary concern and the reason I'd say it would be around the ventilation and the ability to escape.
And if you came into this mine with your mines’ managing experience and taken the role of mines manager, as a prudent manager you'd be saying, “Let’s stop production. Let's sort out these matters of egress and of ventilation and of gas monitoring and of gas drainage before we go into production?”
I would expect that I would, yes."

‎"Just listening to you and thinking about the points you have made about topography and so on and the geology of this mine and the difficulties, standing back and I was, a degree of hindsight here but do you think it was ever a viable mine to open in the way it was being developed?
Well I can't comment on that without seeing a lot of documentation but it’s certainly a tough mine from a geological/geotechnical perspective.
So a tough mine requires even more stringent safety requirements doesn't it?
That's my experience yes.
With great preparation in relation to say strata control, understanding the underlying geology, understanding the methane content, the methane make, putting in place stringent requirements to deal with the methane and dealing adequately with egress issues?
Yep.
To some extent I'm not going to go then into some of the detail but I was contemplating, but just one issue or one or two discrete issues. You said yesterday in your evidence was it unusual to have the main fan being unreliable and yet the mine being in production. I think I may be paraphrasing it a bit but it was something to that effect wasn't it?
Yep.
Can I suggest that it would be even more unusual to go into production especially in hydromining with the ability for that to produce potential to produce large releases of methane, to go into that production before you have your main ventilation system operative?"
‎"Yes"

"Have I got it right that in Queensland air-driven fans are now prohibited underground?"
"I believe that's the case yes."

‎"How long have they been banned for in Queensland?
I’d expect it’s a number of years."

"And if the mine is not being managed and run well, then a properly trained mature check inspector has a positive and necessary role to play?
Yeah, albeit that it’s a tough call because it becomes a conflict situation, but it may well be needed, yes."

"So a lot of the criticism that you and your team have arrived at in this case has focused on such things as ventilation, the adequacy of the ventilation control devices, gas drainage and monitoring?
Yep.
The list that was given to you by one of my colleagues. Mr van Rooyen came to the mine from his position in South Africa and was appointed as head of the TSD with no ventilation expertise at all. He made that clear when he arrived taking on the position. He’s a geologist. But were you aware that on his arrival or very shortly after, he made a specific approach to the company to have a ventilation officer appointed?
No I'm not.
And that that approach was denied and he was informed that a ventilation officer is not needed under New Zealand regulations, that the mine was not at the stage where a ventilation officer was needed, and in any event it was someone else’s problem not his. Are you not aware of that?
I certainly don't recall it, but I'll take it as no.
Well that's certainly something that he will say in evidence that on arrival he identified (a) his lack of expertise in ventilation, his knowledge of Australian and South African regulations which require ventilation officers, and irrespective of the lack of a similar regulation here he wanted such a person in his team so on a day-to-day basis there was someone looking at these essential issues which you've identified?
Mmm.
I'm sure that you would agree that a person in his position accepting from the outset his lack of expertise in ventilation, was acting extremely prudently in the management line, going upstairs and saying, “Look I need someone to do this job. I need the expertise in my team?”
Yep.
That would be prudent?
Yes.
What say you to the fact that the request was turned down on the basis that there's no regulation here in this country and that we're not at the stage where we need an officer, a ventilation officer yet?
Well it’s not for me to say other than the point of pragmatic risk management and identifying your hazards and providing capability to respond to those, regardless of what regulation says.
But I think it’s your evidence that you need someone in that role from day one?
That's what we've said.
To your knowledge, was a ventilation officer ever appointed at Pike?
We actually ended up going around in circles to find out whether it had or had not, and it would appear that a ventilation officer had not."
___________________________________
These are the men who remain to this very day inside the Pike River mine in Greymouth, New Zealand. Each one of them went to work one day and never came home:

Conrad Adams
Conrad John Adams, 43, Greymouth - Adams was listed on the Linked In website as a deputy - a shift boss - at Pike River Coal Mine.


Malcolm CampbellMalcolm Campbell, 25, Greymouth (Scottish) - Campbell was due to marry Kiwi fiancee Amanda Shields on December 18. He was originally from St Andrews in Fife, Scotland.His father, also Malcolm, told Britain's Sunday Express that his son spent two years working in Australian goldmines before coming to the Pike River mine. In a separate interview with the Sunday Telegraph, he said, "Only last month we were watching the Chilean miners being rescued. I remember saying to my wife how awful it would be if it happened to Malcolm, and now it has."

Glen CruseGlen Peter Cruse, 35, Cobden. With a love for the outdoors, Cruse had worked in the mine for most of his life. His great grandfather and grandfather were also miners. Cruse was one of four children. He grew up in Greymouth and attended school there. .



Allan DixonAllan John Dixon, 59, Runanga. Has a partner and two sons in Runanga. His partner, Robyn, believed Allan left her a brief, loving message on her mobile just minutes after the explosion but police later said that wasn't possible. Robyn and Allan had both been divorced and had met only a couple of years ago, the Australian reported. They had been introduced by friends and, both approaching 60, had fallen in love.

Zen Drew
Zen Wodin Drew, 21, Greymouth - Zen Wodin Drew had just celebrated his 21st birthday. He was a building apprentice for a company contracted to Pike River Coal. The former Buller High School student lived in Cobden, a suburb in the north of Greymouth. His father, Lawrie Drew, wore his son's jacket while being interviewed, saying "I just want to tell my son I love him".

Christopher Duggan
Chris Duggan, 31, Greymouth - From nearby Runanga, Chris' brother Dan Duggan wrote on his Facebook page earlier in the week: "Love u me Brother Chris and all the lads underground, we are all trying to stay positive and thanks for all the messages guys." His brother, John, flew back to New Zealand to be with the family. Friend Robyn McMillian said Chris was a "neat person" and "very bright and bubbly". He had not been working in mining long and had previously worked in forestry, shifting industries because he wanted a change.

Joseph DunbarJoseph Ray Dunbar, 17, Greymouth - The youngest of the miners. Had turned 17 only the day before he went down the mine. The day of the explosion was his first day working underground. His mother, Philippa Timms, said he was due to start work at the mine on Monday, but was too excited to wait and asked to go down Friday instead. Joseph was "rebellious, but fun - lots and lots of fun".


John HaleJohn Leonard Hale, 45, Ruatapu. His partner, Brenda Rackley, said they had been seeing each other for nine years "on and off" and lived in neighbouring homes on the out-skirts of Hokitika. He was the guy who would be looking out for everyone down there, she said. Hale was a contractor for Hokitika company Chris Yeats Builders. He had found the mine work stressful and she had been hoping to convince him to leave it after Christmas.


Daniel HerkDan Herk, 36, Runanga. Dan Herk's father lives in Runanga and still works at Pike Mine, like Marty Palmer, they are both keen to bring their boys home. His Auckland-based grandfather broke down when asked about Daniel. He said his grandson grew up partly in Auckland, partly in New Plymouth and partly in Greymouth. "He has worked in the mines quite a long time," his grandfather said.


David HoggartDavid Mark Hoggart, 33, Greymouth. Mr Hoggart's parents are understood to be Foxton residents, though lived in Greymouth..




Richard HollingRichard Bennett Holling, 41, Blackball. Newly-married Holling was the first in his family to go down a mine, uncle Mike Holling said. "We are not a mining family at all." Richard grew up in Christchurch. Richard was a "laid back sort of guy" who didn't care much about money. His new wife, Daejee, told media she kept "thinking positive" throughout the past five days. Richard had been working in the mine for three months as a trainee.


Andrew HurrenAndrew David Hurren, 32, Hokitika. Known as Huck to his friends, he was said to love the outdoors and was a keen hunter and fisherman. He was described by friends as "a quiet guy with a huge heart who would do anything for anyone". One friend told TVNZ that "No one could say a bad word about him". He grew up in Hokitika, attending Hokitika Primary School and then Westland High school.


Jacobus (Koos) JonkerJacobus (Koos) Albertus Jonker, 47, Cobden (South Africa) - Joonker's wife, Christelle, left a moving message on her Facebook profile after the explosion: "Dankie vir al jul gebede en moet asb nie ophou nie." It translates as "Thanks for all your prayers and please do not stop." South Africa's Eyewitness News reported that Mr Jonker's long-time friend, Bertie Buitendach, said Mr Jonker did not enjoy working at the mine. "He told this friend of ours that the mine is unsafe and he does not feel comfortable and safe to work there." Mr Jonker apparently applied for a transfer just a day before the explosion that left him trapped.


William JoynsonWilliam John Joynson, 49, Dunollie Australia. An experienced underground miner who worked for many years in the Burgowan mines at Howard, near Bunderberg. His wife and two children live in Queensland, and he had been travelling between there and Greymouth while working at Pike River. His sister, Veronica Cook, told Australian radio that her family had tried to convince Mr Joynson to quit his career in the mines.


Riki KeaneRiki Steve Keane, 28, Greymouth. One of three trapped miners who were members of the Blaketown Rugby Football Club.Along with Blair Sims and Michael Monk, Mr Keane was a member of the club's senior side, where he plays first-five. President John Pfiefer said Mr Keane had played for the club for about three years.


Terry KitchinTerry David Kitchin, Terry was a very much loved partner of Tara for 13 years and together they had 3 children who were all under 10 at the time of the explosion. He was offered the job of a contractor and took the job, ironically, to give him more time with his family, as his previous job of 6 years had meant lots of working away from home. He had only been at the mine for around 3 months. He is so very missed by all who knew and loved him. He is irreplaceable.


Sam McKie Sam Mackie, 26, Greymouth. Sam's beloved partner gave birth to a baby boy, also named Sam, after his daddy, who he never got to meet, and Sam was an amazing 'dad' to Dominik, they loved each other a lot.



Francis Skiddy Marden
Francis Marden and some of the people who love him.
Francis Marden, 41, Runanga. Francis was married, and loved his family a great deal. He was a great dad and his children all adored him.










Michael MonkMichael Nolan Hanmer Monk, 23, Greymouth - A rugby rep for the West Coast, he attended top rugby school St Bede's College in Christchurch as a boarder before he returned home to work in the mine. He was the son of a Paroa hotel-owner and long-serving West Coast rugby captain Bernie Monk, and long-term West Coast netball rep and coach Cath Monk.

Stuart Mudge

Stuart Gilbert Mudge, 31, Runanga. Orginally from Whangarei. His dad Stephen Rose said his son was "fit, very strong and very healthy" and that working in the mine gave him an "outlet for his energy". He said mining was not about the money for Stuart. He loved the industry, the physical, hard work and the "common bond" with the other miners.


Kane NieperKane Barry Nieper, 33, Greymouth - Nieper was married to daughter of a local contractor, they have a young family.




Peter O'NeillPeter O'Neill, 55, Runanga - O'Neill was a member of a well known mining family from Runanga. His father and several brothers have worked in the coal mining industry. He was a Runanga and West Coast rugby league identity and with brothers Iain, Trevor, and the late Pat was also very prominent in lawn bowls. One of O'Neill's brothers was in the mines rescue team at Pike River. Peter, believed to be a shift boss, was a member of the mines rescue team involved in the rescue of miners trapped in the flooded Black Reef mine two years ago.


Milton OsborneMilton John Osborne, 54, Ngahere - Osborne was serving his second term as a Grey District Councillor for the Eastern Ward, a position to which he was elected unopposed.A contractor at the Pike River Mine, Milton lived in the Grey Valley with his family. Milton Osbourne was a dearly loved father and husband, like many of these men, he has two children, who were aged 13 and 15 at the time of the explosions that killed their dad.


Brendan PalmerBrendon John Palmer, 27, Cobden. Brendon was a second generation miner - his father Marty also works at the Pike River Mine. He had a 5-year-old daughter named Heidi and had been working in the Pike River mine for a couple of months as a trainee miner, after farming for most of his working life.Mr Palmer told the New Zealand Herald Brendon had had his share of troubles while "enjoying life" in the past, but had turned his life around and was "going good"."He loved it. He thought he was going to go places," Mr Palmer said. In a stinging act of cruelty, Mr Palmer has today been made redundant, along with other mine workers.


Benjamin RockhouseBen Rockhouse, 21, Greymouth - The younger brother of coal miner Daniel Rockhouse, 24, who was one of only two men to escape the mine. Neville Rockhouse, Ben and Daniel's father, is the safety training manager at Pike River Coal. Ben loved Texas hold 'em poker, Bob Dylan music and kiwi TV favourite Outrageous Fortune.


Peter RodgerPeter James Rodger (Pete), 40, Perth, Scotland – Pete was described by a friend as ‘an adventurer who loved life”. He lived in Greymouth with his Kiwi partner Dianne Morris. A former oil-rig worker, he had worked as a fitter at the Pike River Mine since May 2010. He met his partner nearly three years earlier when visiting his parents and sister who lived in Christchurch and then decided to emigrate to start a new life. Being a true Rangers supporter, he loved his football and he was a great friend to all who knew him both in Scotland and New Zealand.

Blair SimsBlair David Sims, 28, Greymouth - Sims was married and had two young children. He was a rugby league representative, a regular player in the centre or on the wing for the West Coast. Sims received the West Coast Player of the Year Award the last two years running, as well as being picked for the newly established South Island team this year.


Joshua UferJoshua Adam Ufer, 25, Australia - Rachelle Weaver is three months pregnant with their baby, and due to give birth in May. Friends describe him as a larrikin who works hard and parties harder. "Josh is determined and works hard," one friend said. "He is strong and would punch through the rock to get out of there. If anyone is to survive, it will be him." Parents Joanne and Karl had flown to New Zealand from Australia and China. Josh was a drilling supervisor and originally hailed from Charters Towers in Queensland. His daughter Erika is now eight months old and will never get to meet her daddy. His parents have lost their only son, the man who was to bear his family name into the future. They live in another country, like some of the other families and friends of these twenty nine men, far away from where they lie, where they fell on the 19th November 2010, they'd like to bring him home. Josh's mother Joanne is working actively to improve mine safety.

Keith ValliKeith Thomas Valli, 62, Winton. The oldest of the 29 miners. Keith's brother Geoff Valli said on the morning of the second explosion that he wanted a rescue team to go into the mine, despite the risks. He called his brother a "good bugger". "He was quiet, non-assuming, but solid as a rock," he said. Keith was an extremely experienced miner. "He knew his stuff," Geoff said.

Thinking of these men, and their families. They will never be forgotten.
Please support the Pike River Miners Relief Fund Trust, make a donation to help the families of these men.

John Key should hang his head in utter shame that he treats these women and children, these 29 families of twenty nine of his tax payers, twenty nine working men, like this. This is not acceptable and it affects every worker in New Zealand, every tax payer, every person who cares about workplace safety, justice, and their fellow Kiwis and our all of our brothers and sisters in humanity.

Some mainstream recent news on the inquiry is at these links and this one, also this one, the Greymouth Star has links to their ongoing reports too. There are also a number of other groups on Facebook, and other internet sites where people can access information regarding this ongoing tragedy, and show their support for the families of these men and their families.

The transcripts of the evidence from the inquiry are at this link, and the live stream video of the hearings is here, and live updates here.
_________________________________________________

30 January 2012:
Pike River families 'gutted' as delays mean mine experts leave:

Families of the 29 men killed in the Pike River blasts say they are gutted that Australian experts brought in to help retrieve the bodies have "packed their bags and gone" because the mine manager has not done a full-risk assessment.

Experts brought in to stabilise the mine are understood to have returned to Australia after managers failed to provide a full-risk assessment of the next step in the re-entry process, which would involve pouring a rapidly expanding sealant down a 100m borehole to seal the main tunnel.

In a letter to Pike River Coal on Friday, the Department of Labour said a full assessment needed to be presented before any further work on the sealing project could go ahead.

Acting chief inspector of mines Gavin Taylor said the department had not put a stop on work at the mine.

"We have simply reminded the mine manager of his responsibilities to provide a full-risk assessment of the project before it starts - something he should have done some time ago," he said.

A spokesman for the Pike River victims' families, Bernie Monk, said the Australian experts who had been working at the mine had already "packed their bags and gone home".

"It's just gut-wrenching. It's just continuously a blow after blow that we're getting, but nobody seems to be discussing things with us."

Meanwhile, Greymouth's mayor Tony Kokshoorn has called on the former Pike River Coal boss to rethink his "extremely insensitive" decision to set up a mining consultancy business which includes advising on mine safety.

Peter Whittall was the chief executive of Pike River Coal when explosions killed 29 men in November 2010.

The Department of Labour has laid 12 charges against him alleging he failed to take all practical steps to ensure the safety of company workers.

Charges have also been laid against Pike River Coal and VLI Drilling Pty.

Mr Whittall, who finished in his role as chief executive last November, denies the charges against him. He has now founded and registered Peter Whittall and Associates.

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said Mr Whittall's decision to set up the company was "extremely insensitive at this stage".

"There was disaster under his watch. I just don't think Peter's making the right call here," he said.

"He needs to think about this hard and he's only digging a bigger hole for himself, quite frankly."
__________________________________________

The New Zealand Herald reported that bodies have been photographed intact within the mine, and many of the families are pushing for a speedy recovery of their men. An excerpt from the article at that link:

"Why the body of a coalminer showed no sign of damage from the massive explosion that tore through the Pike River Mine was one of two enduring puzzles scrutinised at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the disaster today."  "Australian mining expert David Reece, one of five used by the Department of Labour in its investigation, was asked today why underground camera footage of some parts of the mine showed relatively little damage.
He said the position of the body suggested there had not been a "degree of violence" in that part of the mine; instead, he was probably overcome by gases as his body appeared "relaxed"
On 8 March 2012 it was announced that
"Australian mining expert David Reece, one of five used by the Department of Labour in its investigation, was asked today why underground camera footage of some parts of the mine showed relatively little damage.
He said the position of the body suggested there had not been a "degree of violence" in that part of the mine; instead, he was probably overcome by gases as his body appeared "relaxed".
Why the body of a coalminer showed no sign of damage from the massive explosion that tore through the Pike River Mine was one of two enduring puzzles scrutinised at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the disaster today."
That equates to around half of the workforce.
The father of one of the 29 miners killed in the tragedy, Marty Palmer, is among them.
He says the move came out of the blue.
"Very hard, leaving the boys up there, you got 29 men up there and we've been there battling everyday. I don't know where we'll go from from here but we're going to still keep the pressure on," he says.
Mr Palmer says it was very hard to walk away from the mine yesterday with his son Brendon still inside.
The following day, It was announced that "The sale of Pike River mine to state owned coal company Solid Energy has been welcomed by the West Coast community as a "giant step" towards retrieving the bodies of the 29 miners, trapped underground since the explosion in November 2010.
Receivers PricewaterhouseCoopers this afternoon announced that Solid Energy had placed a successful bid for the explosion-hit mine near Greymouth.
Receiver John Fisk of PwC told BusinessDesk the assets were exposed to the market for some time, and "all the parties had conditions they needed to work through before they would commit to a deal."
That accelerated in the past week, with state-owned coal miner Solid Energy agreeing to buy the mine's assets, which include a 58.5 million tonne resource of premium high fluidity hard coking coal of which 17.6 million tonnes is estimated to be saleable, subject to due diligence. Fisk said no material assets were excluded from the deal.
Until the bid is unconditional, Fisk said he can't divulge much information, including the sale price, but he will update creditors once he's in a position to.
Creditor New Zealand Oil & Gas said the final terms of the deal are still to be agreed, and will give an update on the distribution of funds once the sale and purchase agreement is signed.
Fisk said there's still capacity to continue with the reclamation plan after some staff were laid off, but any future work will lay with Solid Energy.
An emotional Bernie Monk, spokesman for the families of the Pike River dead who lost his 23-year-old son Michael in the disaster, was "excited" by the sale decision.
He said today it brought families closer to recovering the bodies of the men inside the mine.
"Solid Energy has said in the past that recovery is their main priority and that is a giant step for us.
"The families are very emotional about it. I'm pretty emotional and teary to be honest, but I'm excited. This is the first positive news we've had for 15 months."
Mr Monk said friends from Solid Energy had been alongside him since the day of the explosion, when they broke the news that his son Michael had died.
They had assured him Solid Energy workers would down tools to get the bodies out of the mine, he said.
"I had this gut feeling this would happen eight or nine months ago. It's great to see it.
"There's a long way to go, we can't just open up the mine and walk in, but it's a very positive step. We're finally dealing with people that we can trust."
Pike River Coal, which had been valued at $400million before 2010, went into receivership after the disaster.
It was understood that there were several potential buyers from Asia, South America and Australia interested but Solid Energy, New Zealand's largest coal mine group, were the only ones who signalled clear intentions over recovering the 29 bodies.
Photo / File
The families found out on 19 March 2012 that three compressors kept at the Grizzly site, for when Australian company Wilson Mining come over to do the Rocksil seal at the top of the drift, have been flown down and returned to the hire company, which is hardly inspiring news.

And fifteen months after the deaths at Pike Mine, Solid Energy were still operating dangerous mines. Two of their mines have recently been shut down - that's unacceptable! Safety should have been tightened up immediately after Pike - what's going on?!

This from one of the Pike miners, who's son remains in the mine, just made redundant:  "The families have battled for 15 months for information and progress in recovery our men, the obstacles put in front of us have been ongoing and seem never ending, receivers and mine management seem to think families that lost their loved ones don’t have the right to know what was going on site, I’m pleased I got the information out there and losing my job is nothing to the death sentence opposed on our men by Pike, if management had to endure what families are going through by losing one of their loved ones they would know how we all feel and maybe have a different approach towards family members, we were run by people from overseas without the required statuary citification (NZ), The hydro coordinator that was employed by Pike was the under manger in charge with the two fatal explosions at Moura Australia , three ex Spring Creek workers had put in for this job with over 60 plus year s experience between them but were declined, the underground Production Manager also never had a NZ Mine managers Certification till after the explosion where this was gained through NZ mutual recognition but had failed to gain this well in Australia, it makes you wonder that some people are more worried about their employment and are not there for the interest of our men that are entombed in the mine, I hope when Solid Energy acquire the mine that the right people are put in place to run it and that a result can be achieved to bring closure for all concerned. March 15 2012"
NZ Herald, 7 April 2012 - Pike River inquiry: What next?

Stuff website, The Press, 7 April 2012 - Pike inquiry sheds light on issues.

Here is a link to the book "Murder at Pike River Mine" by Dr Jacob Cohen (who kindly allows it to be reproduced, although it is copyright).
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~:
Some words from family members to John Key: These are the letters which letters were delivered to parliament on 7th February 2012 and there has been no reply so far, but John Key sent a Christmas card to one of the dead miners, which was hugely insensitive:

"I said, “Goodnight, see you tomorrow Dad”, he told me he loved me and said, “ I’ll see you after work sweetheart.” Dad never came home the next day and I’m still waiting for my dad, my hero to come home and ask me how my day went…...
No man should be left where he fell (through no fault of their own) in New Zealand, not after YOU PROMISED to bring my dad and the 28 men home Mr Key.
I hope there’s not a day that comes when you lose somebody you love and cannot lay them to rest in peace.
I hope you'll never get to understand how hard it is to live each day and sleep at night…..
It hurts so bad. I don't wish this on anyone!
You Promised Mr Key…. Why are you not keeping it?"
~~~~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~~~~

OUR MEN
NOT PIKES
BRING THEM HOME

How can we ever rest in peace
Our men are lost
Lost, simply doing their job
sentenced to death
By Corporate greed
Our men our gone
And we’re left serving a life sentence
Their only crime
To trust and be hard working to the extreme
For the sheer love of their family
We were given pre election promises
So, we hung on to hope
The hope that we could bring our men, our heroes home
How can we ever get over our hurt and anger
When we have nowhere to grieve
Our men are buried deep within the mine
We cry out loud, HE’s MINE NOT PIKES
We’re not permitted near the entrance
So we can just lay down and cry
Beside
OUR men
And beneath
We’re not allowed to lay a wreath
You see
Our hearts too
Are buried
Buried so deep
Please bring our men home
So we can all Rest In Peace
And have somewhere of our deep significance
In which to grieve
KIA KAHA AND AROHANUI ALWAYS OUR MEN AND FAMILIES OF PIKE
~~~~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~~~~
"Dear John Key
I, like a lot of people are associated or affected by Pike River Mining Tragedy.
I have personally listened to all of your words spoken about this disaster & held our heads high & hoped it would be okay. If our prime minister says he will get them out & bring them home no matter the cost. We put our faith in you & hoped in our prime minister that his words would stand strong. Well straight to the point, your words mean nothing at all. We have learned you will say whatever to get your votes & people behind you, as a New Zealander I am ashamed you are the leader we are meant to look up to, How the hell are the families & friends meant to move on when we can't even have their men back, they were let down by Pike River, Department of Labour & of course, our government. It should not be left up to the families to fight to get them back, or try to raise funds to help with the recovery. All you were ever after was votes. I'm sure it would be a different story if it was your son down there, or if it was your family. I'd almost be certain they would of been out of there a long time ago, instead the 29 remain where they fell......... & your words still echo, words of lies.
Keep your Words! & bloody follow through with them . . . . . We just want our men given the chance to be with their family so we can all have closure, that isn't a big request at all."
~~~~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~~~~
Pike River Mine Disaster Poem Tribute
This poem was written by Sean Plunket, formerly of Radio NZ.
THE MEN OF PIKE
They came from near and far away
The men of Pike to work that day
The afternoon shift way down deep
Beneath the mountains oh so steep
A long way in but further out
The afternoon shift sets about
A job not flash but hard and trying
A job that holds the risk of dying
From seventeen to sixty two
They start their shift to see it through
For one his first, for all their last
How could they know there'd be a blast?
For all at once no siren whining
Suddenly the worst in mining
Dust and rubble fill the air
A loader driver thrown clear
Just one other finds the light
The rest are hidden from our sight.
And so we learn as news is spread
The news that mining families dread
It's up at Pike there's an explosion
Faces drop and hearts are frozen
Who, how many, where and why ----
Will they make it ---- will they die.
Fathers, husbands, brothers, sons
Coasters, Kiwis, Aussies, Scots
Mates and friends who we are seeking
Methane gas from coal seams leaking
Vents exploded, phones unheeded
Level heads and strength are needed
The world above unites as one
To bring the missing to the sun.
Rescue teams are standing by
As holes are drilled and experts try
To find a way that's safe and sound
To rescue those beneath the ground
Could robots work where men are mortal
To pierce the dangers of that portal
But alas all effort fails.
The darkness of the mine prevails
A second blast of rock and thunder
Hope and prayers are rent asunder
A nation weeps and Coasters mourn
Pike falls silent, dark, forlorn
A hole remains within the ground
Devoid of joy, of life, of sound.
Another hole within the heart
Of those forever set apart
From those they loved who went to toil
Digging coal beneath the soil
Those who gave their lives that day
To work a shift for honest pay
They wait at rest within their mine
The men of Pike, the Twenty Nine

John Key and the government have acted disgracefully regarding this matter, and tried to avoid dealing with it at all, attempting to defer responsibility and ignore the whole thing. The link to the Trust set up to assist the Families of the men is at this link.

Links to other news reports:

Pike River Families vow to blockade the mine if recovery not a top priority - 11 May 2012 (a comment on this article reads: "Australian, Ex Kiwi #182 10:56 am May 13 2012 - I left NZ about 26 years ago, and have noticed the run down off NZ Unions, then after a time once the NZ Goverment (both sides)had weakened the Unions they then started chipping away at safety by cost cutting in areas such as the mining inspectors. Now it looks like the poor relatives of the buried miners will be shafted. This will continue until the population say "enough is enough". There is NO one else but YOU that can do it for you. We in Australia will support you but not until you do something for yourself...I can guarantee you that this would not have been allowed to happen in Australia. NZ was the first to give women the vote! lift your heads up and lead from the front again."



And the last word belongs to Alisha Osborne, the sweet, beautiful, very talented daughter of Milton and Anna Osborne. In September 2012 Alisha Osborne sang this song for her dad and the other men, it was just spellbinding.  This young lady's got real talent.



There's a great article about Alisha and Anna in the Woman's Weekly.

6 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for that link Justy, hadn't heard till you did. The public does have a right to know what's going on.

    We're putting up two related posts soon, there Dompost is reporting the contractors saying the police owe then thousands and won't pay up, but really looking forward to checking out your link. We'll stick it up on here too, and other sites, and pass it on to our journalist friends.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Transparency-in-New-Zealand/170492706304069

    Thanks for commenting, keep in touch.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The publication "Murder at Pike River" has been pulled off the site it was originally posted on. Any thoughts or an explanation maybe?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Has it been removed from Scribd, ISSUU or the site i posted? If it is removed, that tells me that it is hurting people who don't want the information out. This also adds credence to the book, not that it needed it. I attended the local public meeting regarding the Marine and Coastal Area Bill last week and quite a number of people were talking about the book and the issue of mining. The who issue also stinks of divide and rule or a NZ form of Apartheid, which we definitely do not need.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Which site has it been removed from Joel? It should also be on Scribd, ISSUU and bilderberg.org. If it has been removed then it must be put back up fast. This shows that it is hurting those who don't want this information out and it adds credence to the book. I attended at public meeting for the Coastal Area Marine Bill and a number of people mentioned the book in conversation. It was not put to the MP or other speakers but there are people aware of the deeper issues surrounding this. It was a rather tense meeting lets just say and there were not many who have much trust for the Govt right now.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Here's the link to the news report regarding the engineers report, commissioned and paid for by the Families:
    http://www.3news.co.nz/Pike-River-body-recovery-by-2015-review/tabid/423/articleID/241002/Default.aspx

    ReplyDelete