7 Sep 2011

Pike River manager tells inquiry of frustrating delays

5:58 am on 7 September 2011

The former general manager of Pike River Coal says there were frustrating delays in the search and rescue decision-making process following a fatal explosion at the mine.

A Royal Commission is being held in Greymouth into the deaths of 29 men killed in a series of explosions at the West Coast mine from 19 November last year.

On Tuesday, Doug White told the hearing that by the night after the first explosion, all decisions were being channelled back to a committee in Wellington.

Mr White said a group of government agencies, including police and the Department of Labour, were reviewing all decisions, and sometimes it took 24 hours to get answers.

Mr White told the hearing the delays caused frustrations to mount at times between mine staff and police.

Earlier, he defended his decision not to let rescuers go underground in the hours after the first explosion on 19 November, saying he did not have enough information to know it was safe to go into the mine.

"There were a number of occasions on the nights after the explosion where I debated things with individual Mines Rescue members who were - I think it's fair to say - frustrated that they couldn't actually get into the mine.

"But they well understood the reasons they could not get into the mine."

Pike River practices shocking - expert

An international mine safety expert says evidence given this week to the inquiry into the Pike River disaster is a serious indictment of the mine's safety procedures.

Survivor Daniel Rockhouse told the hearings in Greymouth on Monday that there was no first aid kit, no fresh air, and no answer on the emergency phone on 19 November.

Dave Fieckert, an international mine safety expert, told the hearing the evidence shows inexcusable and totally shocking organisational practices at the mine.

Mr Fieckert questioned why the fresh air base had been decommissioned and why everyone in the mine was not aware of that.