N Zealand files charges over coal mine blast

Twenty-five criminal charges filed over health and safety violations with regard to blast in 2010 that killed 29 miners.

    The explosion, which occured at the Pike River coal mine, killed 29 miners last November [EPA]

    New Zealand's labour department has filed 25 criminal charges over safety and health violations at a coal mine where an explosion killed 29 miners last year.

    Each of the charges in the Pike River coal mine disaster carries a maximum fine of 250,000 New Zealand dollars ($195,000).

    The charges are against three parties, but the agency declined to name them or detail the exact charges, saying on Thursday that the country's restrictive rules on releasing information in court proceedings could apply to the case.

    The Pike River coal mine was rocked by an explosion on November 19, 2010, trapping the 29 men. A second major explosion five days later dashed hopes any of the workers had survived.

    An official investigation into the disaster is continuing, but the labour department needed to file the charges before the probe concluded in order to comply with a one-year statute of limitations rule.

    During the investigation, mine experts have been critical of the mine's single entrance and its ventilation system, which some said was inadequate to properly rid the mine of volatile gasses like methane.

    Others have testified that the Pike River company was facing financial pressures and may have cut corners as a result.

    Pike River Coal Limited was forced into bankruptcy in the weeks following the disaster and the mine remains up for sale.

    The government has stipulated that any buyer must try to recover the bodies of the 29 miners, which remain trapped in the mine amid fears that the atmosphere inside is still unstable.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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