Doug White - Asshole of the Week | The Jackal

15 Feb 2012

Doug White - Asshole of the Week

There really is a lot of people deserving this weeks Asshole award.

From Lockwood Smiths' discrimination against Mojo Mathers, mining magnate Gina Rinehart's bid to buy up Fairfax to better promote climate change denial, new revelations about the RadioLive DJ Key debacle and a Police witness refusing to answer questions in the Urewera 4 trial all likely candidates... and we're only half way through the week FFS!

However the deciding factor has to be the hurt caused to the families of those killed in the Pike River mine explosions, in no small way caused by the mismanagement of one Doug White.

Yesterday, the Otago Daily Times reported:

Angry Pike River Mine families have slammed the former mine manager for sending an email about a new job 17 minutes after the explosion that killed 29 men underground.

Doug White's emails caused an upset when revealed at the Royal Commission of Inquiry in Greymouth today.


Mr White was examined for hours about gas monitoring in the mine. He said some parts of the gas monitoring system were in place when he arrived at Pike River, and he assumed they were being run correctly.

Whenever gas levels spiked he always investigated, he said.

But the commission heard that when the vital sensor at top of the ventilation shaft was calibrated on November 4, it was wet and muddy, giving different readings than the one at the bottom.

Mr White said he was not aware of the discrepancy at the time, or that one sensor had `flatlined'.

Mine experts have said they think it did this after being exposed to methane greater than 5 per cent after the mine was gassed out one day.

At one stage a crucial sensor was not working for two and a half months.

"I would have expected them (problems) to be picked up during the calibration process at the very minimum. I would have expected that information to be passed on,'' Mr White said.

In fact, there appears to have been little calibration in the months before the disaster. When a fault was uncovered on one monitor, it was not replaced.

Why on earth Doug White would simply assume things were being run properly and that devices were operational instead of having things properly checked, I will never know.

There is the aspect that White inherited many problems at the mine and that some issues were not passed onto him (all of which a proper governmental inspectorate would have resolved), but this is simply further evidence of Whites lack of managerial skills and ability to address the mines problems.

Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn't know the mine had exploded as he applied for another job, the overall mismanagement of Pike River mine is highly despicable!

There were claims that sensors were intentionally switched off, which at the time I dismissed because the thought of this happening was to horrible to contemplate. However in light of this new information, it appears that sensors were intentionally decommissioned so that work did not have to stop due to excessive gas build-up.

It's not as if gas monitoring devices are all that expensive these days either. Many even calibrate themselves automatically. As well as the badly maintained and in some cases inoperable gas sensors, the mines air circulation system was badly designed and did not work properly, meaning potentially explosive gas build up was inevitable. Management knew this to be a problem well before the disaster occurred.

Doug White has refused to answer questions as to why the mine had no risk assessment process for explosions or high-consequence events and how he could assess whether the ventilation system was dealing with methane hazards with no gas sensors. What an asshole!