Letter: Inspection of mines

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Sir: Your report (26 August) about the criticism of pit inspectors, for allowing dependence on roof bolting in unsuitable conditions at Bilsthorpe, raises an extremely serious question: 'Who will inspect the Inspectorate?'

The Inspectorate itself needs to answer a number of disturbing questions. What procedures were established by the Inspectorate in order to validate applications to use roof-bolting as a primary support system? What precise studies of local terrain and geological conditions were undertaken in the course of this procedure? What checks were made during the progress of development schemes? What additional monitors were imposed on developments which were in close proximity to old workings? Who carried out these checks, and can their reports be made available?

I, for one, have an open mind about some of these questions, and will listen to all the answers with care. But I am bound to say that the record of the Inspectorate itself now needs justification, since its own procedures may be an important part of the problem.

It is more than ever necessary that there should be a fully independent inquiry with the power to cross-examine all those who have the responsibility for ensuring the safe working of mines. It becomes all the more important to ensure that independent mining engineers have access to the disaster area. I understand that the Mines Inspectorate has fenced off the area in question, and that independent inspectors have not yet been afforded access to it. I think it is of extreme importance that this should be rectified as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,


MEP for Nottingham (Lab)