Methane warnings ignored before NZ mine disaster
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- A New Zealand coal mining company ignored 21 warnings that methane had accumulated to explosive levels before an explosion killed 29 workers two years ago, an investigation released Monday concluded.
The official report found broad safety problems in New Zealand workplaces and said the Pike River Coal company was exposing miners to unacceptable risks as it strove to meet its financial targets.
The Royal Commission report follows 11 weeks of hearings into the disaster and makes recommendations to avoid future accidents.
It concluded the country has a poor safety record and recommended a new agency be formed to focus solely on workplace health and safety.
The now-bankrupt Pike River Coal company is not defending itself against charges it committed nine labor violations related to the disaster. Former chief executive Peter Whittall has pleaded not guilty to 12 violations and his lawyers say he is being scapegoated.
An Australian contractor was fined last month for three safety violations after its methane detector was found to be faulty at the time of the explosion.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)