It's been fourteen months since the Pike River Mine first exploded in November 2010, trapping 29 miners inside. Five days later and after the second explosion occurred, they were all presumed not to have survived.
Despite continued assurances that the government would do everything in its power to recover the deceased, they have remained entombed in the mine. To date, there's been very little progress to retrieve the 29 miners... so why the interminable delay?
Back in September 2011, TVNZ reported:
Key said his position on returning the miners to their loved ones has never changed. He said he promised from the outset that he would do everything he could to recover the bodies and that promise remains.
But he said the families fully understand the situation and realise that it would not be wise to put other lives at risk.
Key also told the families of the miners that he would discuss with Cabinet extending the funding of the families' legal team beyond the Royal Commission.
"I've always said if there aren't enough resources from Oil and Gas they can come talk to the Government, it's not an issue of money."
Unfortunately it is an issue of money. Instead of accepting some responsibility for the disaster, the government has allowed the receivers to make the retrieval of the miners a condition of the sale. This has assuredly meant a delay.
Back in July last year, Acting Minister of Energy and Resources, Hekia Parata welcomed the receivers’ decision:
The Government supports the approach being taken by the Pike River receivers to seek a commitment from any purchaser of the mine to take all reasonable steps to recover the miners’ bodies.
“The challenges faced at the Pike River mine are complex. We fully understand the desire of the West Coast community, and especially the immediate families of the miners, to have their bodies retrieved from the mine.
“We are seeking to proceed in a way that offers the best chance of recovering the miners’ bodies, and restoring to the West Coast a working mine at Pike River, if it is possible to do so.”
Clearly Parata does not understand the desire of the West Coast Community, because she supported the receivers decision that has ultimately delayed the retrieval process.
What we need to see is some real leadership on this issue, but instead all we seem to get is more broken promises:
Key said he will call the receivers personally to discuss a recovery plan but just who will implement it will not be known until there is a new owner for Pike River Mine.
The receivers say a decision could be several weeks away.
The families are hoping that promises made today will not be forgotten after November's election.
Several weeks away? Try several months, and perhaps several years. Yesterday, TVNZ reported:
Engineer Bruce McLean was commissioned by the families to write a report examining possible issues around reclaiming the mine tunnel and recovering the men's bodies.It's bad enough that the families and not the government commissioned the report, but it's totally unacceptable that a decision as to who will be responsible for the retrieval of the deceased miners hasn't even been made yet.
His report concludes that if there is a successful sale of the mine, recovery of the bodies could be completed between July 2015 and June 2017, dependent on a number of factors, including completion of a new shaft to establish ventilation in the mine.
His estimated time frames include conditions attached to the sale, such as potential Oversees Investment Office approval, transfer of permits, and agreeing on recovery obligations.
New Zealand Oil and Gas (NZOG), which held significant shareholdings in Pike River, recently acknowledged that the mine may not be able to be sold.
In such a case the role of the government would become 'critical' says Counsel for the families, Nicholas Davidson QC.
The government is clearly being remiss in its duties by allowing a financial and not moral decision to be made. John Key should not be disregarding the wishes of the miners families and the many thousands of other New Zealander's who want some closure on Pike River mine.
Having the retrieval dependent on the sale of Pike River when this might never occur is completely unacceptable.
In my opinion, people who make promises without any intention of keeping them are the lowest of the low... and in this case; such things are a cruelty on the affected families. Breaking promises is definitely not how a Prime Minister should be conducting himself.