Mine safety inquiry would have clout: Steelworkers – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – September 4, 2013)

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

A delegation from United Steelworkers, including Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand, will meet again this week with Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi about how to make mining safer in Ontario.

The USW delegation will return to Queen’s Park on Thursday with revisions and comments on a proposal Naqvi presented when the union visited him last month to renew its call for an inquiry into mining practices.

USW has been calling for a full-scale inquiry, similar in scope to the one being held into the June 2012 collapse of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake. Naqvi gave the union with a proposal that falls short of a full inquiry, a process some are calling a review.

Bertrand said his union doesn’t believe a review will have the clout of an inquiry, which would compel mining companies to provide testimony and release documentation to a hearing chairperson.

The union has been reviewing and reworking the minister’s proposal since meeting with him Aug. 15. “We’re going back to have a discussion about possible changes to see if there’s an avenue … to get things done,” said Bertrand.

USW conducted an exhaustive investigation into the June 8, 2011, deaths of Jason Chenier, 35, and Jordan Fram, 26, at Vale’s Stobie Mine.

The men were overcome with a run of muck — tonnes of water and rock — while working at the 3,000-foot level of the mine.

A day or two before the tragedy, Chenier had warned his superiors there was excess water in the mine and ordered safety guards erected that were taken down three times.

USW conducted an independent investigation that resulted in a 200-page report and 165 recommendations, among them that an inquiry be held to review mining practices, something that hasn’t been done in 30 years.

Nine charges were laid against Vale and six against one of its supervisors by the Labour ministry under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and those charges are proceeding through the courts.

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