BUSINESS

Record-setting $1M fine against Vale for deaths of two workers in Sudbury mine

09/17/2013 05:41 EDT | Updated 11/17/2013 05:12 EST
SUDBURY, Ont. - A Toronto-based mining company has been fined $1 million for the deaths of two workers in a Sudbury, Ont., mine two years ago — the largest work-safety penalty ever levied by a provincial court.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour says the Vale Canada Ltd. workers were transferring muck — broken rock and ore — through a transfer gate roughly 900 metres underground in the Stobie mine when the accident happened.

The ministry says that though there was a protected area to operate the transfer point, the men had to stand in front of the gate in order to view the movement of muck and use a remote control.

It says an uncontrolled run of muck suddenly burst through the gate, burying one miner and hitting another — both employees died from massive crushing injuries and multiple blunt force trauma.

The ministry says its investigation revealed that Vale — a wholly owned subsidiary of the Brazilian mining company Vale — failed to deal with water issues, leading to the deadly accumulation of wet muck clogging the mine.

It says Vale was fined a total of $1,050,000 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act after pleading guilty to three counts related to mine safety.

The ministry said Tuesday that a 25 per cent victim fine surcharge was additionally imposed by the court against the mining giant, with the money going to a provincial victim-assistance fund.

The miners were identified as Jason Chenier, 35, and Jordan Fram, 26, both of Sudbury.

It took rescuers 80 minutes to reach the location and even longer to recover them. They were pronounced dead at the scene.

Sixty workers on the night shift were underground when the two miners were killed. The others were brought to the surface and accounted for, and grief counsellors were brought in.

The labour ministry issued nine work orders — including two work stoppages — to Vale immediately after the workers' deaths.

Vale has six mines, a mill, a smelter and a refinery in Sudbury.

(The Canadian Press, CJMX)