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January 18, 2013

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Mine company and manager to face manslaughter charges

The company that owns Gleision colliery and the person who managed it at the time of the deaths of four miners in a flooding incident in September 2011 are to face manslaughter charges, South Wales Police has announced.

MNS Mining Ltd has been summonsed on four counts of corporate manslaughter and mine manager Malcolm Fyfield on four counts of gross-negligence manslaughter, following the Police investigation into the deaths at the Gleision Colliery in Cilybebyll on 15 September 2011.

The four men – Philip Hill, 44; Charles Breslin, 62; David Powell, 50; and Garry Jenkins, 39 – died after becoming trapped in the mine when it flooded.

MNS Mining Ltd and Fyfield, 57, will appear at Neath Magistrates Court on 1 February 2013.
Detective Chief Inspector Dorian Lloyd of the South Wales Police Specialist Crime Investigations Team, who led the investigation into the deaths, said: “Upon completion of [our] investigation and following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, the mine manager, Malcolm Fyfield has today (18 January) been charged with four counts of gross-negligence manslaughter.

“In addition, a prosecution for four offences of corporate manslaughter against the owners of the mine, MNS Mining Ltd, is proceeding.

“I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to all members of the local community for their continued support and understanding throughout this process. In particular, I would personally like to thank the families involved for their unwavering patience and courage and request that their privacy is respected at this very difficult time.”

Paul Verrico, principal associate at Eversheds, commented: “The tragic events at Gleision colliery deeply affected the whole of the local community; in many ways, that disquiet is reflected in the charges facing the mine manager and MNS Mining Limited.

“At trial, the case may explore the ‘senior manager test’, as it does not appear from [information held at] Companies House that the mine manager was a director of the company.”

The flood and its tragic consequences prompted the HSE to issue a safety alert at the time, reminding the mining industry of the precautions to be taken against preventing inrushes of water in underground mines.

The effect of under-resourcing on the attempt to rescue the four miners was highlighted by the Shadow Welsh Secretary, who called on the Government to think twice about removing or weakening mines safety legislation, and demanded proper resourcing of the Mines Rescue Service.

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