Tragedy at Pike River Mine

Book Author Rebecca Macfie
Rights Available World excl ANZ

On a sunny afternoon in November 2010, a massive explosion rocked the underground Pike River coal mine, deep in a mountain range in New Zealand’s South Island. A hundred and one minutes later two ashen men stumbled from the mine’s entrance. Twenty-nine men remained trapped inside. Tests revealed extremely high levels of carbon monoxide in the mine and the presence of fire, conditions deemed unsurvivable. For five agonising days the men’s families and friends waited and prayed until, after a second violent blast, all hope was extinguished.

Tragedy at Pike River Mine is a dramatic, suspenseful account of a disaster that shook the nation – and the world. Pike River was no ordinary mine. It had been touted by the company and by government ministers as a showcase of modern mining. Shares in the company had been rapidly taken up by investors, swept away by predictions of extraordinary returns. Beneath the hype, though, lay mismanagement, mistakes and wilful blindness that would cost men their lives. Based on extensive research and over a hundred interviews, this powerful book provides chilling insights into the causes of the tragedy, and puts a human face on the people who suffered, and suffer still.

Winner, Best First Book of Non-fiction NZ Book Awards
Winner Bert Roth Award for Excellence in Labour History
Finalist, Best Non-fiction, New Zealand Post Book Awards

About the Author
Rebecca Macfie
is a journalist and the recipient of more than 20 awards, including the Wolfson Press Fellowship. Her book Tragedy at Pike River Mine was a finalist for the New Zealand Post Book Award for Non-fiction, and won the Best First Book of Non-fiction Award and the Bert Roth Award for Excellence in Labour History. Her latest book Helen Kelly: Her Life, a biography of the first woman to lead Aotearoa New Zealand’s labour movement, published in 2021, has been acclaimed as a searing modern history. Rebecca is currently a freelance writer with stories appearing in North & South, Newsroom and other publications. Over a 33-year career in journalism, she has worked as a senior writer for New Zealand Listener and New Zealand Herald’s The Business, as editor and deputy editor of Unlimited, and as staff reporter for National Business Review and The Christchurch Star. She has also written extensively for The Independent Business Weekly, Safeguard and Employment Law Bulletin.


Awa Press



Non Fiction

General Non Fiction

Age range
All ages

Publication Date

Rights Available:
World excl. ANZ

Rights Agents:


Mary Varnham, Awa Press

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‘A devastating account of a needless tragedy. Macfie capably dissects the corporate culture, explains the mine environment, and deals compassionately with the personal stories of the victims, and the loved ones they left behind. This book is a must-read for all those who find it incomprehensible how such an event can occur in the 21st century in our supposedly developed, modern nation

Victor Billot, Otago Daily Times

Macfie gets to the heart of a complex and detailed story without losing or confusing her audience. … Lucid, exhaustive, enraging’ – Guy Somerset, New Zealand Listener ‘If you’ve already read accolades for this book, they’re all deserved and then some. Macfie digs through a mountain of information to deliver a compelling account of what went wrong at Pike River.

Jim Eagles and Mark Fryer, Weekend Herald

Macfie’s powerful narrative brings a new, refreshing, insightful voice to tell a tale of corporate failure, and the men who paid the price.

Laura Mills, Greymouth Evening Star

An astonishingly good book – hard to put down, brilliant. … If there is one book you need to read when it comes to corporate negligence, this is it.

Duncan Garner, RadioLive Drive

At its heart, the Pike River disaster is a business story, and its full telling needed a business journalist of Rebecca Macfie’s experience and acumen. Her account is complex yet highly readable, and sometimes shocking’ – Philip Matthews, The Press
‘Rebecca Macfie has done the country a service in bringing this complex, drawn-out story so clearly to light. At its most banal it’s a page-turner. … And her prose is a perfect example of Orwell’s gold standard for good writing: as clear as a window pane. … Macfie’s work in laying down another plank in this sorry history deserves not just a prize but a medal.

Jane Westaway, New Zealand Books

Credit is due to Rebecca Macfie for her book Tragedy at Pike River Mine. The investigation makes compelling reading and illustrates the power of journalism in book form’ – John Drinnan, The New Zealand Herald
‘Journalist Rebecca Macfie’s research is relentless and her writing style is easily accessible. She creates a palpable sense of urgency and anticipation, despite the fact readers already know the outcome.

Ellen Read, The Sunday Star-Times

Should be compulsory reading for every director, manager and student of business in this country. The book leaves you in no doubt this was an accident waiting to happen…. The question you are left with is why, in the modern age, a workplace can turn into a death trap… The book is compelling, thorough and at the same time harrowing.

Andrew Patterson, Newsroom

Macfie has absorbed and transmits a huge amount of detail, much of it quite technical, and always manages to stay on just the right side of lucidity.

Paul Little, North & South

Macfie’s writing is straightforward and factual, which only increases the emotional impact of the book … [It] will stand for a long time as one of the classics of New Zealand non-fiction.

Lewis Martin, Nelson Mail

Rebecca Macfie has undertaken a forensic dissection, meticulously documenting every crucial misstep, calculated and miscalculated, leading up to the fatal day. She paints a powerful picture of how far apart the public corporate face of Pike River Coal Ltd was from the chaotic, scrambling, reckless reality to which the company’s workers and contractors were exposed. This riveting and extraordinarily authoritative book will withstand the closest professional and journalistic scrutiny.

Cate Brett, former editor, The Sunday Star-Times

This is the best sort of journalism – methodical, well researched and dispassionate. But you can feel its cold anger.

Nicholas Reid, Reid’s Reader