New Zealand coal mine boss acknowledges problems

Associated Press
In this photo taken Monday, July 18, 2011, Peter Whittall, chief executive of Pike River Coal Ltd., speaks at Greymouth Court in Greymouth, New Zealand. Whittall, the boss of the New Zealand coal mine where 29 people died in an explosion in 2010, has acknowledged the mine faced difficulties with finances, personnel and safety. (AP Photo/The Press, John Kirk-Anderson) NEW ZEALAND OUT, AUSTRALIA OUT
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In this photo taken Monday, July 18, 2011, Peter Whittall, chief executive of Pike River Coal Ltd., speaks at Greymouth Court in Greymouth, New Zealand. Whittall, the boss of the New Zealand coal mine where 29 people died in an explosion in 2010, has acknowledged the mine faced difficulties with finances, personnel and safety. (AP Photo/The Press, John Kirk-Anderson) NEW ZEALAND OUT, AUSTRALIA OUT

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The boss of a New Zealand coal mine where 29 people died in an explosion last year has acknowledged the mine faced difficulties with finances, personnel and safety.

In testimony this week at a formal inquiry into the methane-fueled disaster, Pike River Coal Chief Executive Peter Whittall said he knew a four-inch pipeline removing methane gas from the mine was "inadequate" from the time it was installed. He said the plan was always to replace the pipe with a larger one.

Whittall said he'd faced "a lot of frustration" with the lack of continuity in having six different mine managers over two years. And he acknowledged the mine faced a cash flow problem after operating over schedule and behind budget.

The inquiry, in the South Island town of Greymouth, continues.

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