The EPMU is renewing its calls for improved safety protections for underground miners following the fire at Waihi gold mine this morning.
The fire is just the latest in a series of mine safety incidents since Pike River, including recent suspensions of production at Solid Energy’s Huntly East coal mine.
EPMU assistant national secretary Ged O’Connell says the incident shows New Zealand urgently needs to strengthen its mine safety regime.
“The EPMU been on the ground this morning supporting the rescue effort, and we’re just relieved everyone is out safely and grateful to everyone involved in the rescue. Coming so soon after the tragedy at Pike River it was a little close for comfort.
“The company, to its credit, has been very open and engaging with the union throughout the rescue and we are confident that there will be a thorough investigation to find out the cause of the fire and check all health and safety procedures were followed properly.
“This incident reinforces our calls for the Government to adopt stronger mine safety regulations based on the Queensland model, which is considered the international best practice.
“One of the key elements of the Queensland model is for workers to elect their own check inspectors to ensure there’s an independent and trusted safety representative on the job to signal the alarm as soon as potential safety hazards arise.
“We understand the Government is waiting on the Pike River Royal Commission report, but it’s increasingly clear that unless our mine safety standards are brought up to international standards New Zealand’s miners will continue to be put at risk.”