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NZ coal mine boss pleads not guilty after disaster

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Nearly two years after an explosion at a New Zealand coal mine killed 29 miners, the mine's boss has pleaded not guilty to 12 charges of violating labor laws.

Peter Whittall entered the pleas on Thursday in a New Zealand court. The former Pike River Coal chief executive is charged with knowing about or participating in the failures of the company he ran, and for failing to ensure that none of his actions harmed any of his employees.

The miners died in a methane-fueled explosion.

At an ongoing government probe into the disaster, experts have testified the mine didn't have adequate escape routes or ventilation to rid it of explosive gasses, and that the financially strained coal company was cutting corners.

Whittall's next court appearance is scheduled for March.