The EPMU is calling for an immediate strengthening of the mines inspectorate, without waiting for the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the Pike River tragedy to issue its final report. EPMU special legal counsel Andrew Little says the inquiry has heard enough about safety problems at Pike River to act now.
‘It's become quite clear that there were safety risks at Pike River, and that these would have been exposed if a more rigorous system of safety checks, equipment and procedures had been in place,' says Little.
Solid Energy boss Don Elder has backed the union's call to increase the number of mining inspectors, following his admission at the Royal Commission of Inquiry that there had been four fires in the Spring Creek mine in the past two months.
‘There were four ignition incidents in eight weeks, which is of serious concern even in a mine such as Spring Creek with comparatively good safety procedures,' Little told the commission.
‘In two of the incidents no inspector had attended the site,' said Little. ‘We're putting this issue in front of the commission to highlight problems with resourcing and quality of the current inspectorate.'
‘There is nothing to stop the Government reinstating a dedicated mines inspectorate and the post of chief mines inspector right now.'
Elder says that his company would support a strengthened mine inspectorate regime as a useful step towards improved safety across the industry. He says that his company already exceeds regulatory and safety standards.
Little says that Solid Energy has properly logged the incidents and has a good reporting culture.