Letter to the CEO of the HSE regarding the Gleision Tragedy

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.

 

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

 

Peter Hain

MP for Neath

Statement on Gleision Announcement

Following today’s announcement by South Wales Police that the Directors and the Manager of the Gleision Mine in the Swansea Valley are facing criminal charges for corporate manslaughter and other offences, Neath MP and former Secretary of State for Wales Peter Hain said:

“After such a devastating tragedy, the families and our communities have naturally been anxious to discover why and how the four local miners were killed. This prosecution will enable the truth to be revealed for the first time. The mystery to me was how on earth the men were working a coal seam heading straight for old underground mine workings towards an area which they must surely have seen marked on their plan “underground water”. When I was shown the plan outside the mine during the rescue and recovery operation I was aghast. This unanswered question, amongst many others about the tragedy, still haunts the families and many of us who have worked to support them.”

Peter gives Evening post Gleision interview

Evening Post 15/09/2012

NEATH MP Peter Hain was in the middle of a high-powered meeting in Westminster when he first heard that something had happened in a private mine in his constituency – within the hour he was on his way back from London.

The experienced politician was an almost ever-present presence in the tiny village of Cilybebyll, situated on a hillside above the Swansea Valley, over the three days in which the Gleision Colliery disaster played out.

As the tragedy unfolded he worked tirelessly to comfort the families of the four trapped miners, offer his support to the emergency services and to keep a ravenous global media informed.

He was also to set the wheels in motion that saw over £1million raised for the miners’ families.

Speaking exclusively to the Evening Post on the eve of the anniversary of that dark day, which saw the name Gleision Colliery appear on news channels around the world, he said: “I literally rushed out of Westminster, abandoning my meeting and diary for the rest of the day, because I had a feeling that it sounded very serious, worse than the sort of accidents that happen from time to time in local mines.

“I immediately got the first train down and arrived at the Rhos community hall as soon as I could.

“The mood at that stage was obviously one of concern, the families had started to gather together, most of them were sitting in groups in the hall, it was a very solemn mood but there was still a spark of hope.”

However Mr Hain was already preparing himself for the worse.

“At that stage nobody knew how serious it was but I instinctively felt that I should adopt a serious tone in the interviews I gave.

“The mines rescue service, the fire brigade, the police, everybody was doing an outstanding job, but I felt in my bones that this was potentially a serious tragedy.”

That feeling of foreboding was soon to spread.

“As the long hours wore on, it was 30 hours before it came to a close, the gloom deepened in the hall, it was as if a dark cloud, a blanket, had descended.

“The families became increasingly numb.”

They did, however, draw a measure of comfort from the community around them.

Mr Hain explained: “They could sense that there was this welling up of support around them.

People bringing food, refreshments, people turning up to volunteer to make tea or coffee, virtually all through the night.

“I talked to everyone I could and they were all grateful that I was there and pleased with what I was saying because it reflected what the community was feeling.”

Mr Hain was also instrumental in helping set up the Swansea Valley Miners Families Appeal Fund.

He said: “I went back home to have diner with my wife Elizabeth in the Neath valley after doing some late night interviews. We were talking about the families, thinking what we could do, we thought, they are going to need support because now they are on their own, the media caravan has gone away, the public has gone home. That’s when I thought of the idea of setting up the appeal fund. By the end of the first day we had raised £20,000 and by the end of the weekend we had raised £50,000 and then the postman arrived in the office, not just with the normal bundle of mail but with sacks of mail. The response was absolutely magnificent and it just kept coming in.”

Many observers have since remarked on how the wider community took the disaster to heart as it were.

Mr Hain has his own theory why this happened.

He said: “The thing that made it emotionally so powerful, for so many millions of people, was we thought that this type of mining tragedy was something that happened to our grandparents and great grandparents, not something that would happen today. But it did! That was what was so terribly, terribly shocking about it. There are no major public ceremonies arranged to mark the anniversary but all will pause to remember, not least the families.”

Mr Hain said: “I’m sure there will be a few things happening but I don’t think the families want a fuss. They have had to endure all of that. Although they have all been immensely grateful for the community’s support, to come to terms with this deep and bitter loss, in front of everybody, rather than behind their own doors, is very difficult.”

Mr Hain, who will spend this weekend in his Neath constituency with his own thoughts, said: “One of my abiding memories will be of the young son of David Powell walking in front of his dad’s coffin, he was bravely leading the funeral procession.

“One of the benefits of the miners’ fund is we will be able to help him when he gets older. “Another lasting memory was being at the entrance to the mine on the Friday morning and seeing the calm, resolute, utter determination on the faces of the miners rescue team and all the other emergency workers. “The way the two big mines in the Neath Valley, the Aberpergwm and Unity mines, responded was also incredible.”

“Their trained rescue workers arrived within the first hour and brought all the equipment, they were absolutely critical, if those men had still been alive then they would have got them out. “The final thing that sticks in my mind, and I feel haunted by it, is the mine inspector showing me the plan of the mine and where they were working. It was clearly shown that they were heading straight towards an area of abandoned mine workings, marked water. Why? They knew they were headed there, that is something that still has to be answered.”

Gleision fund closes with over £1 million for victims families


The Swansea Valley Miners Appeal fund was officially closed on Monday 3 September almost one year after the tragedy which saw four miners lose their lives. The fund raised £1,091,667 through contributions from across the community and as far away as America, Chile and New Zealand.

The considerable generosity of everyone who donated was described by Peter Hain MP as “mind blowing”, he went on to say “I had no idea it would be so successful, for this amount of money to be generated in these times of hardship, it really dispels the idea that society has become greedier and individualist, a real community is enduring and Neath’s is alive and well”

“The tragedy was a stab through the heart of the local community and touched the lives of thousands across Britain and the world but the response was phenomenal  including large donations, monies from fund raising events and smaller donations from pensioners giving all they could afford to children donating their pocket money – all contributed to achieving this.”

The fund was set up in the aftermath of the tragedy in conjunction the National Union of Mineworkers. It was initially administered by Peter Hain’s office while Trustees were established before being handed over to the Trustees and the Coal Industry and Social Welfare Organisation to be administered.

The fund will be distributed to the victims’ families with trust funds for the younger children upon reaching 21, to give them the opportunity and financial help of things like educational costs.

Costs have been kept to a bare minimum with free legal advice provided by Thompson Solicitors, £529 was spent on Indemnity Insurance for the Trustees and 5p for a full audit.

 

Gleision Families: We’d Give Up Everything To Have Relatives Back

Evening Post

THE families of four men who died in the Gleision mining tragedy would swap all of the £1 million raised in their memory to have them back, it was said yesterday.  Fund trustee Wayne Thomas said the response to the appeal to help the families had been phenomenal, following the incident in which the miners lost their lives in Cilybebyll almost one year ago.

Full Evening Post article

Read Here

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