The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.
The mood was sombre Friday at sunrise as dozens of Steelworkers walked from the parking lot at Vale’s Stobie Mine to the tunnel connecting them to work.
If the deaths of colleagues Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram weren’t already on their minds, a collage of photographs of the two men at the entrance to the tunnel reminded them this was a painful anniversary.
Chenier, 35, and Fram, 26, entered that same tunnel the afternoon of June 8, 2011. A few hours into their shift, the men were killed when they were overcome by a run of 350 tons of muck at the mine’s 3,000-foot level. Members of United Steelworkers Local 6500, the union to which the men belonged, were there Friday to mark the one-year anniversary of their deaths.
Union executives and activists attended all of Vale’s mines and surface plants early Friday morning, asking members to sign postcards urging the Ontario Ministry of Labour to commission an inquiry into mine safety.
A young mechanic who works at Stobie Mine dropped by Friday, even though he was on vacation. He knew Chenier and Fram well and was the second person on the scene after the incident. Pain written on his face, it’s not something he cares to discuss. He admits it makes it hard to go into work every day.
Virtually every production and maintenance employee who showed up for work Friday signed the postcards, which are in wide circulation in Sudbury.
Many stopped to talk about the men killed last year, about mine safety and the need for an inquiry.
Some stopped at the collage, removing their hats and observing a moment of silence for the two young men.
Mike Bond, health, safety and environment chair for Local 6500, chatted briefly with men and women, some of them members of USW Local 2020, as they arrived for work.
Bond is one of the drivers behind the campaign, launched by Sudbury businessman Gerry Lougheed Jr. on April 28, USW’s Day of Mourning.
Mining practices haven’t been examined in Ontario in more than 30 years in an industry that has essentially undergone a revolution.
“Mining’s changing every day,” said Bond. “We want that change brought to the forefront and we want that change reflected” in the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.
Many regulations are open to interpretation and unclear in some ways.
“We want (them) to be crystal clear,” said Bond. “We don’t want any grey areas.”
The union wants the regulations updated to reflect new mining practices.
“We just think it would clean it up, and provide clarity and make it current,” Bond said of the OHSA.
The call for a public inquiry into mining in Ontario was one of 162 recommendations contained in USW’s extensive investigation report on the deaths of Chenier and Fram. Greater Sudbury Council and hundreds of Sudburians have echoed that call since the postcard campaign was launched.
Two weeks ago, the Labour ministry laid nine charges against Vale and six against one of its supervisors under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. A first court appear-a nce on those provincial charges is set for Aug. 14.
The maximum fine upon conviction for Vale is $500,000 per count. The supervisor could face a maximum fine of $25,000 and up to 12 months in jail on each count.
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