Editorial: Renewed focus on mine safety in Ontario (Northern Miner – May 13, 2015)

The Northern Miner, first published in 1915, during the Cobalt Silver Rush, is considered Canada’s leading authority on the mining industry.

A newly released coroner jury’s verdict and recommendations stemming from the two-week inquest into the deaths of two miners at Vale’s underground Stobie nickel mine in Sudbury, Ont., in 2011 has met with wide approval from all players in the tragedy.

Jason Chenier, 35, and Jordan Fram, 26, were killed on June 8, 2011, when a run of muck overcame them while they worked at the 3,000-foot level near the No. 7 ore pass. They were moving muck through a transfer gate when a sudden release of 350 tons of sandy muck and water broke through the gate. Both miners died from smothering and compressional asphyxia, and Chenier also suffered blunt-force injuries.

It turns out a crash gate into the area where the two were working had been left open, so the muck, which had been stuck in the ore pass, came loose and flooded the area.

After pleading guilty to three of six charges in 2013, Vale received the largest Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) fine ever issued in Ontario for the violations.

Of note, Clifford Bastien died in a similar accident at the Stobie mine in 1995, and an inquest into his death had recommended putting workers out of harm’s way by locating all control valves outside the Ross Feeder control/gate.

The Chenier-Fram inquest, presided over by coroner David Eden, repeated those recommendations, specifying that no worker should “be positioned so that he or she may be endangered by an uncontrolled run of material, water or slime, while operating controls for moving material,” the document states.

The three-woman, one-man Chenier-Fran jury accepted eight recommendations suggested and agreed upon by Vale, United Steelworkers Local 6500, the Ministry of Labour and the families of Chenier and Fram, and added 16 of its own in order to improve mine safety in Sudbury and across Ontario and Canada.

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