Province may launch review of mining safety
The sister of a local miner killed two years ago said her family is trying to remain “as positive as possible” despite Premier Kathleen Wynne’s recent refusal to meet with Steelworkers Local 6500 about a mining safety inquiry.
The union called for the inquiry last year in their report into the deaths of Jordan Fram, 26, and Jason Chenier, 35, who died at Vale’s Stobie Mine June 8, 2011 when they were buried by an uncontrolled run of muck. So far, though, the province has refused to launch such an inquiry.
The Fram and Chenier families, along with other citizens who want a mining inquiry, formed a group last year called Mining Inquiry Needs Everyone’s Support (MINES).
A postcard campaign advocating for a mining inquiry was also launched in April 2012 by Gerry Lougheed Jr., and sent thousands of cards to Queen’s Park. The campaign was taken up by the Steelworkers and the families of fallen workers.
Briana Fram said her mother, Wendy Fram — the co-chair of MINES — met with Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi and Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle a few months ago.
While they haven’t agreed to a full-scale inquiry, Briana said the politicians have said there might be a chance of a review of mining safety.
“It just wouldn’t be as comprehensive as an inquiry would be,” she said. “A review would look more towards specific things, whereas an inquiry would look at … mining practices.”
Briana said an inquiry into mining safety practices is needed because the industry and how it operates has changed considerably over the last 30 years, when the last inquiry into the subject was held.
“After I lost my brother, I just can’t imagine another family going through that pain and suffering again,” she said. “I don’t want to see that happen ever again.”
When asked whether her family and MINES would like the chance to meet with Wynne, Briana said they would.
“She would be a great help in getting the inquiry completed, but right now, we’re working with the Ministry of Labour, and we’re satisfied,” she said.
“Obviously one day we’d love to sit down and tell her our story, and the struggles we’ve gone through, and just for her to understand how dangerous mining is.”
A press release from the Steelworkers, which represents Vale miners, said they requested the meeting with Wynne on May 16, looking to plead the case for a mine safety inquiry in Ontario.
Two months later, on July 24, Wynne responded, turning down the meeting request and referring the matter back to Naqvi.
“It’s disgraceful that the premier has no interest in discussing the pleas of the grieving families and co-workers of deceased miners, who know only too well that a mine safety inquiry in Ontario is long overdue,” Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand said in a press release.
“It has been more than 30 years since a provincial commission examined mine safety in Ontario.
“Given the toll of deaths and injuries and the dramatic changes in this industry over the last three decades, it defies belief that Kathleen Wynne and her government are opposed to this long-overdue inquiry.”
United Steelworkers Ontario director Marty Warren said in a press release Premier Wynne appears unfazed by the fact that mining communities have suffered “scores” of deaths and injuries since the government last examined mine safety.
“We hoped the new premier would take this issue more seriously than her predecessor, but that is not the case.”
Local miner Jodi Blasutti, who leads MINES along with Wendy Fram, said she’s disappointed Wynne won’t meet with the Steelworkers, but said she’s not surprised as it’s typical of the government’s response so far.
“We’ve been doing everything that we could possibly think of, but we just don’t seem to be getting anywhere,” she said.
Blasutti said she doesn’t understand why the province won’t hold a mining safety inquiry when they’re currently holding an inquiry into the collapse of the mall in Elliot Lake.
She said MINES had put their work on hold for a few months while they waited to see whether the Steelworkers would be able to meet with the premier, but now they’ll have to regroup.
“I hope when we go back to the table, we get better results,” Blasutti said. “We’re not going to stop, because we’re determined.”