25 Nov 2011

Pike River inquiry hears of lack of expert advice for manager

6:05 am on 25 November 2011

The Royal Commission on the Pike River disaster has been told a group of experts due to advise staff about hydro mining dispersed as soon the technique got underway at the mine site.

The hydro mining operation had started to ramp up in the weeks before the explosions in November last year.

The commission heard on Thursday from the man in charge of hydro mining crews underground, George Mason.

Mr Mason said he had no experience in hydro mining when he took over the role but had been told there would be a team of experts on site who could advise him.

However, he said the experts all ended their time at Pike River within two months of him arriving.

The final expert on site left Pike River a month before the first explosion, saying he was frightened the mine could explode at any time.

Mr Mason told the hearing that before starting at Pike River he searched the internet for information on hydro mining but could not find anything to help him.

The spokesperson for the families of the 29 men killed, Bernie Monk, says the evidence presented to the commission shows the company's focus was in the wrong place.

"We've been preaching this for months that they chased coal, forgot about a second egress, forgot about safety, forgot about everything because they were under pressure," he says.

Mr Monk says those in charge of the mine needed to get money for shareholders and forgot about the safety of the men underground.

The commission now takes a week's break before resuming in early December to examine the health and safety systems and culture at Pike River.