Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Unsafe mines

Thanks to Pike River, we all know that coal mining is dangerous. We also know that those dangers can be mitigated, reducing the risk of an accident. Unless, apparently, your coal mine is in New Zealand. According to an audit by the Department of Labour, 50% of our coal mines are unsafe, with one not even bothering to install gas monitoring equipment to prevent explosions. And I don't think its an accident that the safe mines are run by an SOE, while the unsafe ones are all privately owned.

As the EPMU points out, this exposes the complete failure of our mine inspection system. These are serious, blatant problems, which should have been picked up on any inspection. But apparently, it took an explosion and people dying for the Department of Labour to even bother to check. Shouldn't they be breathing down people's necks, to ensure that employers in a dangerous industry are not exposing their workers to unnecessary and easily preventable risks?

The question now is whether DoL will do any followup to ensure these changes are made and that these mines are safe, or go back to their pre-Pike River situation of ignoring mine safety entirely. Sadly, I'm kindof expecting the latter.