NZ miners call for Australian standards

Workers at an underground coal mine in New Zealand want safety regulations used in Queensland applied to New Zealand mines.

The regulations include worker-elected check inspectors. The call from workers came after a gas build-up at state-owned Solid Energy's Huntly East mine.

Solid Energy said on Friday that there was no safety risk from the accumulation of methane that had been detected on Wednesday by Department of Labour inspectors.

Solid Energy suspended development and coal extraction at the mine in accordance with a prohibition notice from the department on Wednesday evening. That notice was lifted at lunchtime on Friday and replaced with a notice on extraction only.

This allowed underground crews to resume work preparing coal blocks for mining.

Solid Energy has said it expects to resume extraction at Huntly East shortly.

"The company remains confident that its mines are operating safely," said chief operating officer Barry Bragg.

The EPMU, the union which represents miners, said 120 workers at a meeting on Friday called for a system of worker-elected check inspectors, which is a key part of Queensland's mining regulations.

The Queensland regulations are considered the international best practice in mine safety, the union says.

"Solid Energy can't credibly claim it supports lifting New Zealand's sorry mine safety regulations to international standards while it refuses to allow check inspectors and lobbies against law changes to make them compulsory," EPMU assistant national secretary Ged O'Connell said.

Solid Energy has taken over the Pike River Coal mine on the West Coast of the South Island where 29 workers died in an explosion.

In its submission to the royal commission on the Pike River disaster in April Solid Energy advocated New Zealand aligning its mine safety framework with that of Queensland.

But it opposed a mandatory role for worker-appointed check inspectors.

Mining had not yet started in the area under investigation at Huntly East.

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