Former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Peter Hain MP has today released a letter written to the Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Executive asking for more answer on questions raised in the aftermath of the Gleision Mining tragedy.
You can read the complete letter below.
Dear Mr Myers,
RE: Gleision Mine Tragedy
I am writing as the local MP and a former Secretary of State for Department for Work and Pensions to ask for a formal report on why and how the miners involved in the Gleision tragedy came to be working in an area of the mine where the accident happened.
After looking through the reports of the trial, it is my understanding that there remains some confusion about whether or not Mine Manager Malcolm Fyfield and his colleagues were aware of the potential presence of a substantial amount of water in the mine.
Yet the morning after the disaster I was escorted through the police cordon up to the entrance of the mine, and here it was explained to me that the men were working an area from an underground road heading straight toward old mine workings where, very clearly on the mine map presented to me by the Mines Inspector was marked ‘underground water’.
During the trial I noticed that Fyfield appeared unaware of the existence of this map, and denied that he had been warned of the potential for water in the mine, while two former surveyors of the mine disagreed about the extent to which it had been mapped. Lee Jeffrey Reynolds said he quit the mine in frustration because he had not been able to do his job; however John Brosnan claimed that he had discussions with Fyfield warning him about the need for a Precaution Against Inrush scheme before mining the old workings.
This raises a number of questions which require answers:
1 – Can you confirm for me when the last comprehensive map of the mine was produced? Was this the one I was shown?
2 – Can it be confirmed that Malcolm Fyfield or anyone from the Gleision operation knew of the existence of the map I was shown by the Mines Inspector and saw it? If it was so self-evidently dangerous to proceed, and they were aware of the inherent danger of what they were trying to do, why did they do so anyway?
3 – Can anyone confirm where the water actually came from? The prosecution claimed that it had been there the entire time and that Fyfield should have been aware of it; however an expert witness for the defence, Dr Cobb, said this had not been proved and it was impossible to rule out the explanation that water was moving in the mine? In the opinion of the HSE, which explanation is closest to the truth?
4 – Why were they driving up that way when it was in precisely the opposite direction from the other side of the road which I saw was marked up as the area they were licensed to mine? Was this because it was ‘easier coal’ to extract and therefore cheaper? Were they being driven into danger and to their deaths under pressure to cut costs? Or do you agree with the explanation given by Mr Fyfield that he was seeking to drive another way out of the mine through the old workings?
As far as I can see – though I readily concede I was not able to follow the trial proceedings in great detail – none of these fundamental questions have been answered.
I would be grateful for your detailed assessment and answers in a report to me which can be given to the families and which will be published.
MP for Neath