-29, -114, +5.1%, +92%: on the Pike River mine workers and shareholders

-29, -114, +5.1%, +92%.

These four numbers, in part, symbolize the class divide.

Last month, 29 miners lost their lives at the Pike River mine on New Zealand’s South Island. There were no dramatic rescues, no opportunities for centre-right Prime Minister John Key to use the global media to create a permanent association between his image in front of the camera and the unbridled euphoria of bringing twenty-nine trapped men up to the surface of the earth, alive. The only roars at Pike River came from a series of four explosions that literally set the inside of the earth in the West Coast Region of New Zealand’s South Island on fire, creating a funeral pyre for the miners still buried inside the mine.

There were no celebrations this week, either, for 114 former Pike River miners as PriceWaterhouse Cooper (Pike Rivers’ receivers) announced that 114 miners will be laid off, effective immediately. In addition to the 29 miners who were killed at the mine in November, 114 families will face the holidays and the New Year–despite the holiday and redundancy pay-outs–with precarious futures ahead of them.

Earlier today, however, the National Business Review reported–as articles on mining disasters in newspapers across the globe regularly do–that “following yesterday’s announcement of the receivership of Pike River Coal, Skellerup Holdings is set to join the NZX 50 index on the share market. Shares in the rubber goods and milking equipment group rose 5.1% to $1.04 on the news, and have gained 92% in value so far this year.”

Who will be the beneficiaries of these gains? What ongoing benefits will the families of the dead and the families of those workers now without jobs see from the 92% gain?

Read closely, the article in today’s National Business Review is the story of two equations.

One, inexorably linked to the loss column (-29,-114), is the story of the global working class.

The other, linked here to increasing percentages of wealth (+5.1%, +92%), is tied to those who largely do not risk their husbands and their fathers and their brothers and their sons to jobs that take them, daily and most dangerously, beneath the surface of the earth.

And the outcome of this mathematics for coal miners and their families, yet again, is chiseled far too deeply in the loss column.


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