Vale Manitoba Operations wins safety award – by Ryan Flanagan (Thompson Citizen – June 3, 2011)

The Thompson Citizen, which was established in June 1960, covers the City of Thompson and Nickel Belt Region of Northern Manitoba. The city has a population of about 13,500 residents while the regional population is more than 40,000.

In late May, at the Canadian Institute of Mining (CIM) 2011 Conference and Exhibition in Montreal, Vale Manitoba Operations was awarded the John T. Ryan Trophy for the safest metal mines in Canada.

The award was given to the T-1 and Birchtree mines, based on having the lowest reportable injury frequency per 200,000 hours worked in Canada. The two mines were actually tied based on the award criteria.

“I could not be more proud of our employees for their performance in winning this award,” said John Pollesel, chief operating officer for Vale’s North Atlantic Base Metals operations. “It is because of our dedication to health and safety principles that we continue to be a national leader in this area.”

This marks the sixth time in the past seven years that a Vale mine won the John T. Ryan Trophy for metal mines – before not winning in 2010, the company (known as Inco, CVRD-Inco, and Vale Inco during this timeframe) won the trophy every year from 2005 through 2009. Birchtree Mine won the trophy in 2005, while the other four titles went to the Copper Cliff North and Garson mines in Sudbury.

Several mines in the Snow Lake area have also won the award in the past, including HudBay’s Chisel Lake and Ghost Lake mines in 1979, and the New Britannia Mine three times – under the ownership of TVX Gold Inc. in 1997 and 1998, and Kinross Gold in 2004.

Vale noted that both T-1 and Birchtree have decreased the occurrences where medical aid was needed by more than 50 per cent each over the past five years. As of May 31, T-1 had not experienced a lost-time injury in 690 days, while Birchtree had a similar streak of 662 days without such an injury.

“Although mining has come a long way in terms of safer processes and technologies, earning this award isn’t something that just happens,” said Stu Waring, Manitoba Operations general manager responsible for mining and milling. “It requires the continuous efforts of all our employees to practice the principles of risk management through our SafeProduction program.

Our employees apply SafeProduction principles every day in order to bring risk to ‘As Low As Reasonably Achievable’ or ALARA in the SafeProduction model. While I am very proud that we earned this award, I feel every more gratified knowing that our employees are continuing to apply the principles of SafeProduction so that we reach our goal of zero harm.”