Ontario to review mine safety after Vale deaths in 2011

Looking at effectiveness of rules, enforcement, prevention

TORONTO (Reuters) — The Ontario government will launch a review of mining safety, looking at the effectiveness of health and safety rules, enforcement and prevention in the province after the 2011 deaths of two men at a Vale SA mine prompted calls for reform.

The review, announced on Wednesday and to commence in early 2014, comes after more than a year of lobbying by the families and friends of the men, Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram.

The two were killed at one of Vale's Sudbury, Ont., nickel mines, and the Brazilian miner's Canadian unit was hit with a record $1.05 million fine for the incident in September. It had pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the province's workplace safety law.

Mining has long been a major industry in Ontario, and miners, including big international players such as Glencore and Goldcorp, produced some $10.7 billion worth of minerals in 2011, according to provincial government figures.

About 27,000 people work in the industry. From 2003 to 2012, the province's Workplace Safety and Insurance Board approved claims for 32 traumatic fatalities in the sector.

The safety review will involve labour and industry as well as health and safety representatives. Among other things, it will look at "ensuring appropriate ground stability and water management practices methods are being used".

Chenier and Fram were working the night shift at Vale's Stobie underground mine when material that had been stuck in an ore pass suddenly burst through a gate, crushing them in what miners call a "run of muck."

An agreed statement of facts said Vale's failure to maintain drain holes or stop wet material from being dumped down the ore pass contributed to the incident.

Vale said in September that it had devoted "significant efforts and resources" to understanding what had happened, and on implementing recommendations made since the incident.

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