Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Where nature may win

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  • steven crawford,

    What I have been wondering during this tragic event, is weather mining is any more dangerous an occupation than deep sea fishing. And also, how sad it is that the early media reports said that the two survivors had reported two more men following them out of the tunnel, but they never emerged.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4310 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz,

    A pretty good piece from TVNZ.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    O dear. anything that has the Greymouth mayor's name on it,I will NOT contribute to-
    he's a phuquewit-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Weather mining!
    Yeah, bad stuff.
    You get hailed on.
    And lightening bit.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    What I have been wondering during this tragic event, is weather mining is any more dangerous an occupation than deep sea fishing

    Or quite a lot of professions where people die regularly from accidents. Truck driving, farming, roof painting, motorcycle couriers...

    The thing about mining, though, is that when there's an accident, it's often a lot of people involved, and a lot of uncertainty about what's going on. Makes for dramatic news, particularly since most people find the idea of being trapped underground very scary. I did find the news that 300 people had died in a stupid stampede in Cambodia rather depressing, but it barely rated a mention here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    What I have been wondering during this tragic event, is weather mining is any more dangerous an occupation than deep sea fishing.

    Whose allowed life insurance?

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    I did find the news that 300 people had died in a stupid stampede in Cambodia rather depressing, but it barely rated a mention here.

    I noticed but, yes, I feel that often happens way down here in little ol' NZ. The kinda " yeah but what about this... " because we are so isolated. Road deaths are fodder but a bunch of impending doom is news. Sad Sad Sad. Society size perhaps?

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • James George,

    Nobody is asking for a no risk world, but how about one where workers are trained before they are asked to undertake dangerous tasks. This mine had no apprentices, it preferred to hire straight off the street and down the mine, hence one of those killed was a 17 year old boy having his first day at work. Two things there, somehow I doubt that even the coach and horses joke that is NZ Occ Health and Safety legislation permits children down mines. The second issue is what the f**k was he doing down pit on his first day?
    If the mine had all of these safety protocols they claim to have had, shouldn't the kid have had a bit of training in em before he began digging out coal? The poor little bugger may not even have known how to use his respirator.

    Some journalists have made a big deal about how Solid Energy just down the road had been running for years without any major incidents, yet not one journo has asked the obvious: "Is there much difference between work practices at Solid Energy and work practices at Pike River?"

    Trouble is the minesr are too weighed down with a mixture of guilt, cause the Pike River deal was a sold as a much needed to boost to a region hurting from mining and forestry closures, not to mention fishing being contracted out to foreigners, so a bit of a blind eye was turned to Pike River's lack of training and adequate back-up and safety procedures. That mixed with this silly bourgois notion that it dishonours the need to bicker about how they were killed, means that the sociopaths who gambled with 29 lives just to make a quid, and lost, will probably get away with it.

    The nats want the mine to start up again to generate money for the shareholders who back them and the labourites are the mugs who let the neo-liberal claptrap about deregulation even infect the coal mining industry, the very industry where the workers movement started in NZ, precisely because greed can put so many coal miners lives at risk.

    I am sick to my guts about this - nothing demonstrates exactly how far NZ has regressed from the ideals of the 19th century Pakeha settlers than this awful incident.

    I don't expect many to see it, most will be too busy spouting the same individualist garbage that has made so many ordinary NZers vulnerable to corporate sociopaths, and the others will use this horror as a way to flex their technocratic speciality, by arguing pointless issues like the best way to ascertain when these poor bastards copped it. Even that is wonky - like the bloke talking about fibre optics and electrical sparks causing explosions in the same sentence.

    If you want to get all technocratic ask yourself how it can be that the alarm at the mine wasn't raised until 1 hour and 50 minutes after the explosion? Who was on duty above-ground? The limited experience I have had in working on an underground mine (not a coal mine) in another country admittedly, featured safety officers above ground in constant communication with the underground. Knowing exactly where everyone was at any time was their job, precisely because of the need to know where everyone was if there was a collapse.

    The only evidence enyone has that this mine was safe is the continual protestation by the company boss that it was safe. Yeah right well you can take that to the bank, he's got nothing to gain by not being forthright has he?
    Yet the media has repeated that "this was a safe mine" over and over until it has become unpatriotic to question the mine's protocols. Whenever a foreign journo less cowed by life in regimented NZ asked a question that had the least edge to it, the local media hopped onto that journo like ton of bricks. That when they should have been either kicking themselves for getting beaten to the draw or hopped in with a followup to get to the bottom of what the hell has been going on at Pike River.

    But we are going to get a commission of inquiry not a royal commission. Oh great. Not! Royal Commissions have gotten drastically out of favour since the royal commision into air NZ's incompetence and cover up of Mt Erebus.

    That particular commission of inquiry is the only one in my lifetime (and I suspect I have been around a quite a bit longer than most posters here) which delivered a finding other than the finding the govt of the day wanted to sell the masses. Not that it mattered - the govt participated in a kangaroo court against the royal commissioner it appointed and the findings were over-turned -unconstitutional comes to mind but kiwis are known for their regard for constitutional niceties. Another reason pols shaft them with consumate ease. .

    Royal Commissions are much more powerful than ordinary commission of inquiry chiefly because they can widen their terms of reference if the commissioners believe that is needed. They can also set their own rules of evidence and do exactly what is needed to be done in a situation where there has been "an orchestrated litany of lies"
    A commision of inquiry whose brief will be limited to the rescue after the explosion and which probably won't be allowed to look into wider issues such as training, back up ventilation systems, comparisons with other coal mines etc, won't find bugger all. Anjd if it does it won't be able to follow up if it goes outside the terms of reference, which will be tightly set.

    The govt will announce it right at the height of the 'silly season' either right before xmas or right after the new year and it will be able to have its hearings in camera (out of the public view) not all, just the embarrassing stuff, which we will be told is because of 'commercial sensitivity'.

    Chances are the inquiry will be given 12 months to run and will report back the following 'silly season'.

    It is pitiful. I spoke to a journalist today, who was full of self importance about how they were 'going to get to the bottom of this'.

    Yeah right that will be why she/ he's doing a 'human interest' piece first. The full investigative stuff will come later, next year she/he reckios. Yeah right. I don't think so- the journos bosses will tell him the world has moved on next year if she/he does remember, and the journo will acquiese just like every NZ journo always does.

    How about you mob ? The usual apologists for the staus quo will drop by for a spot of name calling after this, if you haven't all already moved on to the next big news story. But those that haven't - how about instead of just dismissing what I write or arguing the toss over minor issues, how about you think about this when the BS inquiry is announced, when it runs and when it reports back.

    Sure I won't be 100% correct on everything, but I guarantee that the inquiry/ies (another kiwi trick have 5 inquiries instead of one and everyone reckons some really important issue is the other fella's job or conversely they all trip over each other saying that is sub judice for the other inquiry which never looks at whatever the sub judice issue was) don't find anything majorly wrong.

    By then those who have been listening will have begun to hear some of the stuff I have alluded to, but it will be too late kiwis will be 'sick of it' and more interested in whether Sonny Bill's hands can reach round his old fella or some such twaddle.

    At least remember this was predicted and the fella who predicted it did so because he hopes that eventually younger NZers will wake up to the big lie they have been sold.

    Since Sep 2007 • 95 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Society size perhaps?

    I think most societies have the same phenomenon, it's human nature to care more about those closer to you. And stories with a strong metanarrative of blame are more powerful than "300 people died in a shocking accident that they mostly brought upon themselves by crowding too hard". Even easier to write off are the accidents that happen in Mecca with strange regularity, where people in religious ecstasy squash each other, similarly with football game crowd riots. But they're all tragic.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks, in reply to James George,

    Yet the media has repeated that “this was a safe’mine’ over and over until it has become unpatriotic to question the mine’s protociols.

    Not really. Many have suggested that it may be premature to assume the mine’s protocols are necessarily to blame, in the sense of being unreasonably lax in safety standards. It may be that that proves to be the case, or, as someone mentioned, it may be a ‘one-in-a-million’ event. There’s a difference between ‘too soon to lay blame’, and saying it’s unpatriotic to question the mine’s operation at all. It’s also too soon, I suggest, to make statements such as “...the appallingly incompetent way the police have attempted to control the situation”.

    ...(another kiwi trick have 5 inquiries instead of one...

    There will of course be more than one inquiry: at least one from the government, and some from other independent organisations. That’s not a trick. That’s entirely reasonable and appropriate.

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to James George,

    The nats want the mine to start up again to generate money for the shareholders who back them ...

    FFS, James, could you please slip into the same section of the multiverse as everyone else?

    And perhaps you could wait until the terms of reference and makeup of the commission have been announced before you denounce the orchestrated litany of lies? (See what I did there.) I can't stop you grinding your collection of axes against the tin-foil hat, but the nice thing about PAS is we tend to test our hypotheses against data and reality-based observation. But why bother when you've obviously decided the everyone on the planet except you is a corporate scat whore...

    The govt will announce it right at the height of the 'silly season'

    Monday's the height of the silly season? Damn, I better get the Christmas shopping done...

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to chris,

    I listened to that song today, Dave Dobbyn's Welcome Home too; trying to find an emotional state that approximated how I felt... both are beautiful but I'm not sure they quite reflect, for me, how I feel.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to James George,

    Gosh James, you're dead right. There, feel better now? Not getting enough respect at home are we, old fella?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19683 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Paul Williams,

    Yeah, you're right Paul, it doesn't really fit. I've been left questioning what I kind of contribution I was attempting to make by posting that.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to James George,

    I am sick to my guts about this – nothing demonstrates exactly how far NZ has regressed from the ideals of the 19th century Pakeha settlers than this awful incident.

    Wow, James, your racist, regressive jibes are so subtle.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz, in reply to James George,

    Sure I won’t be 100% correct on everything

    No, no. I'm pretty sure you will be.

    </yeah_right>

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • ScottY,

    James, since you clearly don't know any more about mining that most of us here, why don't you give the idiotic conspiracy theories a break?

    West • Since Feb 2009 • 794 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to James George,

    I think your experience down a mine has given you some very valid questions James. I absolutely agree that nearly 2 hours before noticing anything wrong is appalling even if for nothing other than safe practice. I agree there seems much that needs asking. I understand your anger and frustration and I may be the only one that thinks your venting is a little closer to home than some here may realise. For that I am sorry. Keep plugging, you sound like you got thick skin. Push you local MP for your answers. You may have some luck.
    Now I will step away from the computer for my own health and safety regulations. :)

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz,

    Mind you, I do like the tag "corporate psychopath".

    "I proactively incentivised the go forward with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to James George,

    The only evidence enyone has that this mine was safe is the continual protestation by the company boss that it was safe.

    Oh, and the inspection by the mine's insurers that was completed days before the event. And a Department of Labour inspection within the preceding weeks. Whittall's not just saying that the mine was safe, he's got the (hopefully demanding) inspection report from the people who have money on the line if safety practices at the mine aren't up to scratch. Insurers tend to be bloody-minded about risk exposure to themselves, as one expects.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    There’s a difference between ‘too soon to lay blame’, and saying it’s unpatriotic to question the mine’s operation at all.

    Well put. I expect that some fairly decent blame will be laid given enough time and evidence. But even now it's too soon, there's still work to be done.

    I certainly don't think it's sufficient to just say "well, these things happen in mining". But that might turn out to be pretty much how it was, that very unlucky chances caused the accident. Or perhaps coal mining really is awfully dangerous, and that could give the nation food for thought about using it to transform the NZ economy. At the end of the day, many industries carry huge risks to human life, and are still tolerated because of the goods they provide, and the understanding that the workers chose that line of work and could have left any time, and that the high levels of pay actually are "danger money".

    Our blood has stained the coal
    We tunnel deep inside the nation's soul
    We work the black seam, together

    -Sting

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    If you want to get all technocratic ask yourself how it can be that the alarm at the mine wasn't raised until 1 hour and 50 minutes after the explosion? Who was on duty above-ground?

    I've been struggling with that from day two, layman knowledge and all. It still strikes me as the most damning aspect of the whole thing - how were miners not required to touch base at regular intervals with those outside, and was there anybody outside, safety equipment at the ready? We know there are two people who almost made it - you'd think that they could at least have saved them.

    Wow, James, your racist, regressive jibes are so subtle.

    Insofar as 19th century Pakeha culture produced some of the earliest labour struggles and victories in the world, I think you may be reading what James said quite unfairly there.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    how were miners not required to touch base at regular intervals with those outside, and was there anybody outside, safety equipment at the ready?

    Given that the electrician was sent in to deal with a reported fault, it's possible that the fault was with the telephone link into the mine. We haven't been told the precise details. Remember that there's no radio communication into a deep hole in the ground, only whatever you can run over physical cable. It's possible that there was no regular communication protocol, in which case I would say that's damning more in not being required by regulation (because it's not exactly hard to set up a comms log, and the telephone connections are installed as a matter of course) than in anything Pike River did. I'll reserve judgement.

    As for a rescue team, are you familiar with the two-in, two-out rule? It's a principle of fire fighting and urban search-and-rescue that for every two people you send in, you have two more standing by to rescue the rescuers. Not sure if the rule is used in mines rescue, but would be surprised if it's not. Plus there's a lot of personnel management involved in this kind of rescue. Entry control logs, communications, equipment management, etc. Keeping around enough people to run a coordinated, safe rescue effort is very expensive. It costs the Fire Service a million dollars a year, give or take, to keep a single-pump career station (four shifts of four fire fighters) running, and it takes a lot more than four people to mount a proper mine rescue operation.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    That particular commission of inquiry is the only one in my lifetime (and I suspect I have been around a quite a bit longer than most posters here) which delivered a finding other than the finding the govt of the day wanted to sell the masses.

    This is just silly. The Cave Creek commission of inquiry delivered a lacerating finding that said DoC was so underfunded that it routinely cut corners and thus “a tragedy such as Cave Creek was almost bound to happen.”

    The minister of Conservation, Denis Marshall, eventually resigned and his political career never recovered.

    I don’t think it was quite the result the government of the day would have liked.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    where does the “1 hour 50 minutes” come from? Reports of the explosion start from 15 min after – not sure when the above-ground staff knew but it must have been within 15min at least.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

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