Three former directors of the Pike River Coal company have hit back at the findings of the royal commission of inquiry into the disaster, saying they never put profit before safety.
John Dow, Ray Meyer and Stuart Nattrass were directors of Pike River Coal at the time of the explosion at the West Coast underground mine, where 29 men were killed in November, 2010.
Earlier this month, the royal commission released the results of its 14-month inquiry into the disaster, finding the mine's managers were so focused on short-term coal production, they never considered the risk of an explosion.
But the three directors, after digesting the report fully, released a statement through their lawyers on Wednesday, saying they strongly disagreed with the suggestion that production was ever prioritised ahead of safety at the mine.
They said the commission's view conflicted with evidence it received from senior management staff, who emphasised that, while encouraging production safety was always their highest priority.
They accused the commission of basing its view upon conjecture or impression, and not the evidence.
"Its report does not identify any particular circumstances, or any documents, in which a safety requirement was not met for financial reasons or because it might have impacted upon production."
They said the commission did not seek any evidence from the company's financial staff, nor review the company's accounts or financial documents.
"The company's board never rejected a health and safety request on financial grounds or because it might have impacted upon production."
The men also said the mine's operations were known to the Department of Labour mine inspectors, the miners' union, the New Zealand Mines Rescue Service, international and national contracting companies, consultants and mine experts, and many others.
"None of these individuals or organisations expressed concerns to the company's management in relation to safety at the time," the directors said.
The men said they welcomed discussion about the future of mine safety in New Zealand following the commission's recommendations.