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Pike River Receivers Appointed After 29 Miners Killed

Pike River Receivers Appointed After 29 Miners Killed
This aerial view shows the drilling rig at the Pike River Coal Mine some 50 kms from Greymouth. Source: AFP/Getty Images

Pike River Coal Co., owner of a New Zealand coal mine where 29 miners died after blasts last month, had receivers appointed after telling major creditors it’s unlikely to be able to repay loans.

Managers from PriceWaterhouseCoopers were appointed by New Zealand Oil & Gas Ltd., which holds about 30 percent of the company’s shares and is one of the largest secured creditors, at the request of the Pike board, Chairman John Dow said in a statement. Pike River shares have been suspended since Nov. 22 after the first explosion at its mine on the west coast of the nation’s South Island.

“The company finds itself in a precarious position financially,” Dow said in the statement.

The first blast at Wellington, New Zealand-based Pike River’s mine occurred on Nov. 19, followed by a larger explosion on Nov. 24 that prompted police to say no one would have survived. Rescue teams have so far been unable to enter the mine, part of which is burning underground. The incident is the country’s worst mining disaster in 96 years.

“It will be an extended period before any resumption of mining can be contemplated, and with Pike River rapidly facing insolvency, receivership is an unavoidable step,” David Salisbury, New Zealand Oil & Gas chief executive officer, said in the statement.

New Zealand Oil shares fell 2 cents to 87 New Zealand cents at the 5 p.m. market close in Wellington. Pike River last traded at 88 New Zealand cents on Nov. 19, giving it a market value of NZ$356.7 million ($266.5 million).

Uncertain Future

The board has advised the receivers that its priorities are to recover the bodies of the dead men and make the mine safe, to cooperate with all inquiries into the cause of the disaster, and to ensure employees get their entitlements, Dow said.

The board also wants to preserve the value of the asset “while recognizing there is considerable uncertainty about the future of the mine,” he said. “Both Pike and New Zealand Oil are supportive of any intentions to eventually reopen the mine.”

New Zealand Oil said the Pike board had confirmed its debts are substantial and in excess of its cash and other immediately foreseeable sources of funds, the Wellington-based company said in a separate statement.

New Zealand today named Stewart Bell, Queensland State Commissioner for Mine Safety and Health, and David Henry, a former New Zealand public servant who has been chief executive of the Electoral Commission and Inland Revenue Commissioner, to the Pike River Royal Commission, Attorney General Chris Finlayson said in a statement.

The commission, to be headed by High Court judge Justice Graham Panckhurst, will examine the causes of the explosions, the handling of the search operations, the availability of rescue resources and broader mine safety legislation.

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