New Zealand drops charges against deadly mine boss

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Associated Press

Posted on December 11, 2013 at 11:34 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 12 at 1:33 AM

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand's government has dropped charges against the former boss of a coal mine where 29 miners died and instead has accepted a financial settlement.

The decision has angered some of the victim's family members, one of whom described it to the New Zealand Herald newspaper as "blood money."

The government last year charged former Pike River Coal chief executive Peter Whittall with 12 counts of violating labor laws following a deadly 2010 methane-fueled explosion in the mine. But on Thursday, government lawyers said they considered the probability of convicting Whittall low given the available evidence.

The government said it instead accepted Whittall's offer to drop the charges in exchange for a payment of 3.41 million New Zealand dollars ($2.8 million) made on behalf of company officials to victim's families.

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