The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.
If he had seen conditions like those he witnessed after a run-of-muck incident at Vale’s Stobie Mine in 2011, he would have issued a stop-work order to cease production, said a Ministry of Labour mining inspector.
Will Thomson testified at Day 5 of a coroner’s inquest into the June 8, 2011, deaths of two men at Stobie that he had never seen water conditions as bad as those since beginning in the mining industry as a student in 1989.
Thomson testified before a two-man, three woman jury Friday, saying water and muck was five feet deep on one level, and sand, slimes and water mixed with broken ore covered levels of the century-old mine.
Thomson had only been “badged” as a Labour ministry inspector since March of the year Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram were killed in a run of tons of muck while working at the 3000-foot level of Stobie, near the No. 7 ore pass.
Thomson had worked for Vale for 15 years, eight of them at Stobie, in logistics on the muck circuit in the mine’s A division. He was the on-call mining inspector June 9, 2011, at 12:15 a.m., when he was contacted about the incident in Stobie Mine’s B division.
Chenier, 35, was a supervisor with 11 years’ with Inco and Vale, and Fram, 26, was a miner with six years. The run of muck is thought to have occurred about 9:45 p.m.
Thomson testified he called a more seasoned ministry inspector, Rick Kulyski, to go with him to Stobie. They arrived at the 3,000-foot level of the mine at 3:48 a.m. and walked toward the No. 7 ore pass.
Thomson said he saw water, slimes and mud “just about everywhere you would look. It didn’t look very pretty. It was very, very wet.”
After police released the scene to the ministry at 5:15 a.m., Thomson went closer to the incident scene, walking through a foot of slimes, mud and loose rock. He described slimes as sand and water mixed with smaller aggregate.
“Your boots from time to time would suck into it,” like walking on a beach sand, he said.
He couldn’t make it to the access gates to the ore pass because the area was buried in muck with only 24 inches’ clearance to the ceiling or back of the entrance to No. 7.
When asked about the material, Thomson shook his head and said he could tell it was saturated with water and that, if it ran or poured out of the vertical ore pass into the horizontal 3000 level or drift, “you would not be able to run ahead of it.”
Thomson took photographs of different areas of the mine, travelling through the area with Kulyski, Vale safety manager Fred St. Jean, Vale safety supervisor Steve Zoldy and Joe Santi, who was superintendent of Stobie’s A division.
Thomson later went up to the 2600-foot level in a utility tractor and investigated there. He noted water accumulation on the floor as he approached the No. 7 pass. Again, he saw mud, slimes and chunks of ore, “not a very good condition.”
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