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NZ police say no charges to be laid after Pike River Mine explosion

17 July 2013

No criminal charges will be laid by New Zealand police against individuals involved in the Pike River mine disaster, after a two-and-a-half year police investigation concluded there was not enough evidence to prove manslaughter. 29 men were killed in the explosion at the mine on November 19, 2010.

Police said on July 17 there was not enough evidence to link any individuals to specific events leading to the explosion and therefore manslaughter charges had to be ruled out. 

Detective Superintendent Peter Read said he knew the families of the victims would be disappointed with the outcome. "This has been a very difficult decision and not one taken lightly," he said.

“I informed the families of the 29 men this evening and I know they will be very disappointed. I can only give them my absolute assurance that we have been meticulous in our investigation and consulted widely as the inquiry progressed.

“The investigation has been one of the most complex undertaken by police involving formal interviews with 284 individuals, 25,000 pages of witness statement transcripts and some 34 million pages of documentation relating to the operation of the Pike River Mine.

Police said there was enough evidence to charge individuals with criminal nuisance, but given the ongoing investigations by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment(MBIE), those charges would raise double jeopardy issues.

Any penalties arising from police charges would be unlikely to supersede those imposed under MBIE prosecutions, police said. Police are not ruling out reopening the investigation should access to the mine be gained in the future. Access would allow a scene examination.

"However, I stress there is no certainty that this would produce any new relevant information," Det Sup Read said. "Even if new information was identified, there is no guarantee that it would lead to a future prosecution."

Earlier in July, Pike River Coal was ordered to pay $NZ110,000 ($A94,840) to each of the families of the 29 victims killed in the explosion. The company was also fined $NZ760,000 for nine health and safety charges.

Last month, a judge ruled former Pike River Coal boss Peter Whittall could be tried in Wellington, rather than in Greymouth, on 12 health and safety breaches.

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