NZ files charges over Pike River mine tragedy

A miner lays down flowers at White Knight Bridge near the entrance to the Pike River mine where 29 miners died, in Greymouth (file image from December 2010)
Image caption The bodies were never recovered from the mine

The New Zealand government has filed 25 criminal charges in relation to last year's Pike River mining disaster in which 29 people died.

The labour department said the charges had been brought against three parties, but said it could not name the parties or specify the charges.

New Zealand's courts have strict rules on data protection in such cases.

The 29 men were killed in a series of explosions at the pit, in one of the nation's worst mining disasters.

A separate royal commission inquiry is still going on, with a final report due in March 2012.

But officials said the government had to bring charges now because of a one-year statute of limitations.

Each charge carries a maximum fine of NZ$250,000 (£120,000; $195,000).

"The department is unable to name those charged at this point as they either have existing name suppression orders in their favour, or have the right to apply for name suppression," said the department of labour in a statement.

"Identifying the specific charges could also lead to identification of the three parties charged so the department is unable to specify the detail of the charges."

The mine, near the town of Greymouth in the north-west of New Zealand's South Island, was rocked by the first of several explosions on 19 November 2010.

A coroner's report shortly afterwards said evidence suggested the 29 men died in the blast or from the impact of poisonous gases.

Their bodies have not been recovered and the mine is now sealed off following several other blasts.

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