Pike River Coal says there is no cash in its coffers to pay court-ordered compensation to the families of victims of the 2010 mine explosion—despite the personal wealth of its former directors and the assets of its biggest shareholder, according to The New Zealand Herald.
The company was sentenced in the Greymouth District Court on July 4 over health and safety failings that led to the deaths of 29 miners in November 2010. Judge Jane Farish ordered Pike River Coal to pay a total of $3.41 million in reparation—$110,000 for the family of each victim and survivors Russell Smith and Daniel Rockhouse. She also fined the company a total of $760,000 over nine charges.
Pike River Coal is in receivership and indicated during sentencing that it had only enough money to pay $5,000 to each family. But Judge Farish slammed the claim, and said the company had a “total lack of remorse.” Farish indicated that Pike’s biggest secured shareholder, NZ Oil and Gas (24.9%), was in a position to pay reparation. Last August, NZ Oil and Gas posted a full-year profit of $19.9 million.
Pike River receiver John Fisk said it was impossible for the firm to comply with Farish’s order. It had $2 million worth of liability insurance, but after legal fees were paid, just $156,000—or about $5,380 per family—was still available for compensation payments, he said.