Let them rest in peace. They’re not lost, we know where they are,” —Marion Curtin, mother of Pike River Mine victim Richard Holling, January 2020.
by Roger Childs
Wasting money on recovering the remains
Last December the Recovery Agency CEO, Dave Gawn, indicated that there was likely to be a request in 2020 for more cash to try and get the bodies, or what remains, out of the mine. But some of the families are now questioning whether continuing with the project is worth the money.
It was estimated the second explosion in the Pike Rive mine disaster of November 2010 reached astonishing temperatures of 3000° C. The sad reality is that probably such extreme heat would have left nothing but ashes of the unfortunate 29 men caught in the blasts. Add to that the likelihood of there being massive rock falls in the shafts.
One can understand many families wanting “closure” by the retrieving what remains of the dead miners. It might be safe to continue with re-entering the mine, drilling through the rock and siphoning off the deadly methane, but the cost has been prohibitive and what are the odds of finding any human remains after 10 years?
An appropriate memorial to the brave men
About 50 km south of Pike River, 65 men and boys were killed in the Brunner Mine disaster of March 1896. That mine was subsequently closed and in 1996 an impressive memorial was erected to the dead miners near the site.
It is probably time to accept that the Pike River Mine should also be sealed and erect a suitable memorial to the 29 men who were needlessly killed.
The least the government can do is to pay for this, and look at reopening the case against the perpetrators of the second biggest crime in recent New Zealand history, exceeded only by the Christchurch mosque attacks of March 2019. The Health and Safety Laws have been changed but that is cold comfort for the relatives of the 29.
No justice for the miners and their families
They would be still alive today if the Pike River Coal Company, led by Peter Whitall, had not been hell-bent on taking short cuts, ignoring warning signs and failing to provide worker health and safety, in trying to extract black coal from the Paparoa Range to keep their shareholders/investors happy.
Justice has not been served. The Pike River Mine disaster was corporate manslaughter and the perpetrators should have been punished long ago.