Ontario company fined $1,050,000 after two workers fatally injured

Failure to ensure safe conditions for workers in mine leads to highest ever fine under Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 09/24/2013

Sudbury, Ont. — Vale Canada Limited, a Toronto-based company which owns and operates an underground mine, has been fined $1,050,000 after two workers were fatally injured.

On the night shift of June 8, 2011, two workers were working at an ore pass on the 3000 foot level of Stobie Mine in the City of Greater Sudbury, Ont. They were in the process of transferring muck (broken rock and ore) from above the 3000 foot level to below that level through a transfer gate. The workers were operating the gate using a remote control pendant. Although there was a protected area for workers at that location, in order to view the movement of muck and use the remote pendant, the two workers had to position themselves such that they were in front of and fully exposed to the transfer gate.

There was a sudden and uncontrolled release of muck, sand, and water. This run of muck erupted through the transfer gate, burying one worker and hitting the other. Both workers died from massive crush injuries, multiple blunt force trauma, suffered in the run of muck.

A Ministry of Labour investigation found there had been a hang-up of wet muck in the ore pass. The wet muck was a result of Vale not dealing with water issues in the mine.

Vale Canada Limited pleaded guilty to three counts:

• Failing to prevent the movement of material through an ore pass while hazardous conditions (the hang-up) existed
• Failing to maintain the drain holes at the 2400 level of the Stobie Mine, leading to the accumulation of water, creating wet muck which then hung up
• Failing to ensure that water, slimes and other wet material was not dumped into the ore pass at the 2600 foot level of the mine.

Vale was fined $350,000 for each count by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, for a total fine of $1,050,000. This is the highest ever total fine levied by a Court in Ontario for contraventions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

As well, the Coroners Act, a statute administered by the Office of the Chief Coroner, makes a coroner's inquest mandatory for all mining fatalities.

The fine was imposed by Justice Randall Lalande. In addition to the fine, the court imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge, as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.

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