Lesley Haines is acting deputy secretary - workplace for the New Zealand Department of Labour.

Mine Investigation Largest Case Yet for New Zealand DOL

Eight staffers from the agency are involved. The Health and Safesty in Employment Act 1992 gives the department up to six months to investigate and file charges, if any. A third explosion inside the mine occurred Friday.

The New Zealand Department of Labour has begun its investigation of the explosion at the Pike River underground coal mine where two explosions left 29 miners presumed dead. NZDOL's Acting Deputy Chief Executive Workplace, Lesley Haines, on Thursday said this will be the largest investigation in the department's history and will involve cooperation with the police, the coal company, and the coroner.

Pike River Coal executives will meet Friday to discuss the mine's future, but they already believe it will be reopened and will continue to be mined, the New Zealand Herald reported Thursday. The newspaper reported a third explosion occurred Friday inside the mine, and video of part of its interior from a robot sent inside revealed extensive damage.

The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 gives the department up to six months to investigate an incident and file charges, if any. "This is a terrible tragedy for the family of those who have lost their lives, for the West Coast community, and for New Zealand," said Haines. "We will be trying to find out what led to the accident, whether anything could have been done to prevent it, and what steps could be taken to prevent a similar incident in the future."

She said eight departmental staffers are taking part in the investigation, including two experienced technical mining experts. "We have appointed a highly experienced investigation manager who is gathering an investigation team around him now," Haines said. "We will also be sourcing experts in New Zealand and offshore to assist with the investigation."

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