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Investigation into Pike River Mine conveyor belt

Pike River mine entrance.

Police has concluded an investigation which commenced in August 2018 into claims that a conveyor belt inside the Pike River Mine was started on November 24 2010, causing the second explosion inside the mine.

Following a thorough and detailed investigation into the design and operation of the conveyor belt, and after reviewing the known circumstances leading up to the second explosion, Police have found no evidence to suggest that the conveyor belt was operated or started at any time after the first explosion on November 19 2010, and no evidence of any causative link to the three subsequent explosions that occurred between November 24 and 28 2010.

The investigation focused on a number of key areas, which included:

  •   •  The design and operation of the conveyor belt system

  •   •  The state of the mine at the time of the second explosion

  •   •  The proposal to start the conveyor and the risk assessment process.

In relation to the first point the investigation found no evidence that anyone gained access to a CCTV monitored hut near the mine portal where the conveyor belt was operated from. It also found no evidence that anyone with the pre-requisite technical knowledge accessed the relevant computer systems to deactivate audible alarms which would have sounded prior to the belt being started. The inquiry also established that the conveyor could not be started from the Pike River Coal Ltd control room.

On the second point Police found no evidence after consulting with experts that there was an explosive atmosphere of gas adjacent to the conveyor system or allied electrical circuits, and no evidence that the atmosphere at the grizzly, where the belt ends, was anything other than fresh air.

On the third area the investigation examined risk assessment documentation regarding a proposal first raised by Pike River Coal Ltd staff to starting the conveyor belt. There is no evidence that this proposal was supported or approved at any stage during the rescue phase, and no evidence that official authority to start the belt was issued by NZ Police or anyone else on November 24 2010.

These findings confirm the initial police assessment of these claims which we made public in a media statement on September 26 2018.

Police have met with members of the Pike River families today to communicate the outcome of the investigation.

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