Picking Up the Pieces

Overcoming Adversity at Pike River

It is a gross understatement to say that things went wrong in the Pike River mine. In the end, despite best endeavours, all of the preventative safety systems proved inadequate. At first glance it would also initially appear that not nearly enough thought and planning had gone into building a technological infrastructure that would not only survive a mine blast, but would enable rescuers expeditiously to enter the mine thereafter.

We are pleased that inquiries will take place–although we are scathing of the number. All this speaks of a plethora of bureaucratic bodies fulfilling respective statutory obligations. Ten different inquiries are not going to add much supplementary information–but they will consume an awful lot of time and money as labyrinthine bureaucratic boxes are ticked. This is but a small part of the price we have to pay for having decided that we would rather be managed by bureaucrats, than live our lives in thankful acknowledgement of God’s wondrous providential care.

But we expect the mining industry will learn a great deal from the disaster. Mines generally, and coal mines in particular, will end up being better, safer, and more productive places to work. As we apply our God-given gifts, intelligence, resourcefulness and skills to analysing and learning from the disaster we will make progress; we will all be better off. And that is the way it is supposed to be. God has commanded us, after all, to go forth and subdue His earth, making it bring forth its pluriform riches (Genesis 1:28). Mining is an act of obedience to our Creator.  

Just as every earthquake is studied and engineering knowledge grows, leading to safer and better buildings, so it will be with the mining industry as a result of Pike River.

In this respect, several salutary things have impressed us in the aftermath of the disaster. Firstly, while pop-pundits like Mike Hoskings of a local radio breakfast show has repeatedly asked every guest whether mining has a future in New Zealand (implying that it should go the way of whale blubber), the industry and company spokesmen and national leaders have remained judicious and non-reactionary. Gerry Brownlee, Mining Minister has used the simile of an aircraft crash. When a plane goes down we work to make aviation safer, not use it as a reason to stop flying.

Career miners have affirmed that the industry in their minds is something about which they are passionate and they would never willingly give up. “It gets in your blood,” the Chairman of Pike River said–and he is a life-long miner. The Coasters themselves have more than a little passion and enthusiasm about mining–which is one of the lifeblood industries of the region.

We have no doubt that the best way to honour the memory of the fallen miners is to overcome the hazards which proved fatal to them so that those who come after them will not suffer the same fate.

We also spare a thought for the shareholders who put up the capital to develop the Pike River mine. There will be some who have lost a great deal. These people are the financial equivalent of the miners themselves. Both are needed to make a mine exist and work. Such entrepreneurs who are willing to put so much at risk are also heroic in their own way. They can only be admired.

We have also appreciated Andrew Little’s contribution. Here is a union leader who is not fixated by the antediluvian dogma of class warfare, it would seem, and who has publicly supported both management and miners during the disaster.

Not so long ago we took great offence at a Prime Minister who disgraced her office by her gratuitous slur of people of the West Coast, calling them “feral”–as she hounded and persecuted one of their number, Kit Richards who had dared to stand up to her. Thankfully we have not seen a repeat of such shameful, ill mannered behaviour during this recent disaster.

D H Lawrence, in his Whales Weep Not!, tells us

They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains
the hottest blood of all, and the wildest, the most urgent.

Similarly, they say the earth is hot, but yet hotter still is the blood of miners.

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