Vale gets record fine in death of miners

September 20, 2013

The Government of Ontario fined Vale more than $1 million in connection with a double fatality in 2011 in which two miners were buried in a torrent of mud.

It is the largest fine ever given by under the health and safety act, by an Ontario court, CBC News reported, however, Ontario’s New Democrat Party and labor unions have reiterated their demands for an official inquiry into mining fatalities in the province, saying the fine is not enough.
Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram were killed when wet mud and ore flooded the tunnel where they were working at Vale's Stobie Mine in Sudbury, Ont., on June 8, 2011.

Chenier and Fram were working in an ore pass at the 3000 ft level, transferring broken rock and ore upwards when there was a sudden release of muck, sand and water.

Vale pleaded guilty to three of nine counts and was fined $350,000 for each count. Keith Birnie, the supervisor of the deceased men, had also been facing six charges, but the Crown elected to drop its case against Birnie, saying there was a slim chance of conviction, CBC News reported.

The fines come many months following a Steelworkers Local 6500 report that alleged nickel mining giant Vale failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent the deaths.

Sudbury New Democrat France Gelinas, who represents the Nickel Belt district in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, demanded to know why six of nine charges were dropped against Vale Canada.

“We will never know exactly what was found, why were those charges laid in the first place, but the question that everybody has is who agreed to this plea bargain and who agreed to withdraw those charges?” she told the Canadian Press.

“Now that we’re not going to have our day in court it creates one more arguments for an inquiry,” she added.

However, while there are no current plans for an inquest into the Stobie miners’ deaths and other related mining deaths in the province, a coroner’s inquest is still pending. Craig Muir, the regional supervising coroner for Sudbury, told the Sudbury Star that the inquest is mandatory “but we can do anything with an inquest until all the court proceedings are done.”

Gelinas said there have been “hundreds” of coroner’s inquests over the past 30 years into fatal industrial accidents but miners continue to die at Ontario mines.



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