The Politics of Misery | The Jackal

5 Jul 2011

The Politics of Misery

Yesterday it was reported that the Pike River Coal receivers cannot make recovering bodies a condition of the Pike River mines sale.

Apparently they cannot force potential buyers to carry out the recovery without a guarantee the operation would be safe and feasible.

If it wasn't achievable, why was it started in the first place I wonder? National's Acting Minister of Energy and Resources, Hekia Parata then contradicted the receiver's statement.

She said 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 Government welcomes the receivers' clear expectation that any purchaser would commit to recover the bodies of the miners, provided it is reasonably possible to do so, and subject always to safety considerations. As such, the Government would expect to see any application to transfer the mining permit to be subject to a suitable commitment from the purchaser.

"Applications to transfer mining permits are considered by me under section 41 of the Crown Minerals Act," Parata said.
As always the devil is in the detail. The permit according to Parata was not cancelled when Pike River Coal went into liquidation. Here's the section of the Crown Mineral's Act 1993 that applies where the permit remains in effect:

Rights to prospect, explore, mine

(1) Subject to section 8, the holder of a current prospecting permit shall have a right to prospect for the mineral, in the land, and on the conditions, stated in the permit, whether the mineral is owned by the Crown or privately owned.

(2) Subject to section 8, the holder of a current exploration permit shall have the rights of a holder of a current prospecting permit and, in addition, a right to explore for the mineral, in the land, and on the conditions, stated in the permit.

(3) Subject to section 8 and subsections (4) and (5), the holder of a mining permit shall have the rights of a holder of a current exploration permit and, in addition, a right to mine the mineral, in the land, and on the conditions, stated in the permit.

Here's the section that grants certain power's if the permit is to be transfered:
Transfers and other dealings with permits   

(1) In this section—
agreement includes a contract or deed and an arrangement; but does not include an access arrangement

. Transfer includes assign.

(2) No permit holder or any other person shall enter into an agreement (except by way of mortgage or other charge only) which -  

(a) transfers a permit; or 
(b) creates any interest in or affecting any existing or future permit; or
(c) transfers or otherwise deals, either directly or indirectly, with any interest in or affecting any existing or future permit; or
(d) imposes any obligation on the permit holder which relates to or affects the production of minerals from the land to which the permit relates or the proceeds of such production    

• unless the agreement is entered into subject to the consent of the Minister and an application for such consent is made within 3 months after the date of the agreement.

(3) The Minister shall consent to an agreement of the kind referred to in subsection (2), on such conditions as he or she thinks fit, unless in his or her opinion special circumstances exist. Before making a decision in respect of any such agreement, the Minister may require the production of such information relating to the agreement as the Minister considers necessary or desirable.

(4) An agreement which is subject to the consent of the Minister under this section shall not have any effect unless application for the Minister's consent is made in accordance with subsection (2) and the Minister consents to the agreement.

(5) All conditions of the Minister's consent under this section shall, for the purposes of this Part, be deemed to be conditions of the permit concerned.

(6) Subject to the conditions of the permit and of the agreement which transfers the permit and to the conditions of the Minister's consent under this section, on the transfer of a permit in accordance with this section, the transferor shall cease to have any rights or obligations under the permit, except in respect of any contravention of the conditions of the permit that occurred before the date of the transfer.

(7) [Repealed]

(8) A transfer or lease of a permit shall not have any force or effect until a notice, in the prescribed form, of the transfer or lease has been lodged with the Secretary and the Minister has consented to the transfer or lease.

It appears that there's no provision given to the National Government under certain circumstances to insist that the deceased are recovered. It also appears that the permit might not be able to be transferred at all.

With the receiver's not able to ensure that the recovery is a condition of the sale, this is all starting to look like a PR exercise by the moronic National Party.

It would also seem like a process whereby open cast mining is the desired outcome. If this is National's plan, such politicking on peoples misery is entirely unacceptable. Hekia Parata ends her media release with:
“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,” she said.
It is possible to opencast the Pike River mine, but this would in most circumstances mean that the 29 deceased will not be recovered.

It would also mean the National Party will break yet another promise, which by current form doesn't seem to concern them much at all.

In my opinion, National is partly responsible for the accident because they reduced safety inspections and removed safety requirements that may well have ensured that the disaster did not occur. It will be interesting to see what the Royal Commission of Inquiry finds in this regard.

In the mean time, it's really a question of does the National Government want the deceased returned to their families, or do they want to open cast Pike River mine? I do not share the the Spokesman for the 29 deceased miners families, Bernie Monk's optimism when he said:
"I'm confident the Government will support us."
The answer will be determined by those who are partly responsible for the disaster because they placed money above safety in the first place, which does not bode well for a suitable outcome.