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Pike River Coal found guilty over 2010 New Zealand coal mine disaster

25 April 2013

Pike River Coal company has been found guilty on all nine health and safety charges laid after the 2010 mine disaster which killed 29 workers. New Zealand district court judge Jane Farish found the company responsible for fundamental safety breaches. Pike River Coal faces fines of up to $2.25m but the company is currently in receivership and owes secured creditors $20m.

The former chief executive Peter Whittall faces a separate trial. He has pleaded not guilty to 12 charges.

Judge Farish ruled that the company had failed to ensure the safety of its workers.

"In this case, there were fundamental breaches of the Health and Safety in Employment Act which led to the unnecessary deaths of 29 men," she said in her judgement.

The mining disaster was New Zealand's worst in almost a century.

The judgement follows an official investigation last year, which found that Pike River Coal failed to spot danger signs as it tried to boost production at the colliery.

The commission of inquiry found that the 19 November blast at the mine, on the west coast of the South Island, was caused by a methane gas explosion.

Meanwhile, on April 23 the NZ Government released an implementation plan showing what progress has been made on the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy.

The Government has:

* Announced a new stand-alone Crown agent focussed on workplace health and safety; expected to be in place by December, with legislation before Parliament in June.

* Passed the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill. The Bill introduces an initial assessment of permit applicants' health and safety and environmental management capability.

* Established an expert reference group of international and New Zealand mining and regulatory experts, emergency management experts, industry and employee participants. The Group advises the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to help it establish a new mining regulatory framework that meets international best practice.

* Appointed Graham Sunderland, an expert in emergency management and response, to the expert reference group and Steven Dohnt who has experience in the New Zealand quarrying sector.

* Begun the drafting of guidance material for directors on how good governance practices can manage health and safety risks.

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