Trial gets started over [Vale Sudbury] miner deaths – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – August 15, 2012)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

The first court appearance Tuesday of Crown counsel for the Ministry of Labour and an agent for lawyers representing Vale Ltd. and one of its supervisors officially launched what is expected to be a protracted, complicated trial on charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Vale is facing nine charges under the act and supervisor Keith Birnie is facing six charges after an almost yearlong investigation by the Labour ministry into the June 8, 2011, deaths of two men at Stobie Mine.
It only took minutes for a justice of the peace in the Ontario Court of Justice to adjourn the matter until Sept. 12, when a judge will begin hearing the case in the criminal division of provincial court. Vale and the supervisor are charged with failing to take reasonable precautions to prevent the movement of material through an ore pass at Stobie Mine where Jason Chenier, 35, and Jordan Fram, 26, were killed.
The men died after being overcome by a run of 350 tons of muck from the No. 7 ore pass of the century-old mine while they were working at the 3,000-foot level. Birnie is facing charges similar to the ones laid against his employer.
David McCaskill, who is prosecuting the charges for the ministry, presented an agent of Vale’s and Birnie’s lawyers with nine thick volumes of evidence supporting the ministry’s case.
The charges against Vale and Birnie were laid May 31.
After the brief court appearance, McCaskill said it will take a good deal of time for Vale lawyer Douglas Hamilton and Birnie’s lawyer, Cheryl Edwards, to review the disclosures that Sudbury lawyer Mac Sinclair was presented with Tuesday.
The ministry has elected to have the charges heard by a judge rather than a justice of the peace because of the complexity and seriousness of the case, said McCaskill.
“This is a double fatality, there’s highly complex issues in this case, highly complex legal issues,” he said after the court appearance.
“There’s some very technically complex engineering issues, potential mining engineering” issues that will arise during a trial that is expected to last weeks and may not get under way for months.
A judge may be more familiar with the complex legal issues than a JP, said the ministry’s counsel, issues such as search and seizures, and charter issues, said the lawyer.
McCaskill will present the ministry’s case against Vale and Birnie together. Before the trial begins, the parties will have to go through the judicial pre-trial process, in which they will sit down with the judge assigned to this case and discuss the issues that may arise in the trial.

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