Why did 29 miners die?

Twenty-nine miners died in the Pike River coal mine in November 2010. The government set up a Royal Commission to find out what happened and why. The third stage of this Royal Commission Inquiry finished on Friday. This third stage tried to find out what caused the explosion which killed the miners.

Listen to September 25th 2011 to hear more about the Royal Commission.

When the Royal Commission is finished, there will be a report but during this third stage we heard a lot of about the possible cause of the explosion. There was probably a rock fall after the coal was taken out of one area. This led to an increase in methane gas in that area. When the electricity was turned on to drive the water pumps, the explosion happened a few seconds later.

We also heard there were other problems in the mine with workers. Some were not well trained. There were financial problems with the mine which meant pressure to work longer hours and mine more coal. There was conflict between some of the bosses. There were not enough safety checks by mining inspectors.

The final stage begins April 2nd. The final stage will look at how to make coal mining safer in the future.


• set up – start
• Royal Commission – it is like a law court; it reports to the government
• stage – part
• led to – A led to B; B followed A
• methane gas – CH4
• trained – taught what to do
• financial problems – the mine needed to make more money
• pressure – force
• to mine (verb) – to remove the coal from the mine
• conflict – arguments


Note how useful it can be to start a sentence with “There is/ are/ was/ were/ has been/ have been / will be”. You can also use it after a clause e.g. “When the Royal Commission is finished, there will be …”

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