On November 19, 2010, the first in a series of explosions rocked the underground Pike River coal mine in New Zealand. After a second explosion five days later, the 29 men underground were declared dead. Despite overwhelming evidence that Pike River Coal’s management cut costs and endangered workers’ lives, no one has been brought to justice for the actions that turned the mine into a death trap.
The state regulatory agency, the Department of Labour (now called WorkSafe), and the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (now called E tu) both bear responsibility for the disaster. They knew about the company’s flagrant safety breaches, but did nothing to shut down the mine.
For more than a decade, police, government agencies and the judicial system have done everything to shield the company’s directors and managers from prosecution.
The 2008-2017 National Party government and the Labour Party-led government formed in 2017 have repeatedly reneged on promises to properly investigate the mine and recover bodies. In March 2021, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Labour government announced it would no longer fund an underground investigation to go deeper into the mine, beyond a roof-fall, where there is likely to be crucial evidence that could be used in prosecutions.
The World Socialist Web Site and the Socialist Equality Group in New Zealand are supporting the fight by the Pike River Families Committee, representing the majority of the victims’ families, for a full and thorough underground investigation, to uncover the truth about what led to the 29 deaths.