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Impala and Sudbury mine contractor fined following 2020 fatality at Thunder Bay-area mine

Palladium miner slapped with $350,000 in workplace fines following two incidents in the same year
Lac des Iles Mine is located 90 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay. (Impala photo)

Impala Canada was fined a total of $350,000 in a Thunder Bay court on Oct. 13 for two separate workplace incidents that occurred at its Lac Des Iles (LDI) palladium mine in 2020, one of which killed a mining contractor.

SCR Mines Technology, a Sudbury mining service company that was working on the mine site, 90 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, was also fined $130,000 in the instance where one its workers died.

The companies entered a guilty plea, according to Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development news release posted this week.

On May 27, 2020, the contractor was killed when blasted ore saturated with concrete and water overwhelmed protected barriers at the base of an ore pass.

SCR had been contracted to repair the damaged walls of an ore pass, which is a near vertical underground opening designed to allow blasted ore – known as “muck” – to tumble and slide along the pass in moving from one area of the mine to another.

The contractors were scaling the walls and spraying a rock reinforcement material called shotcrete, a concrete sprayed with water through a hand-held nozzle.

According to the ministry release, the SCR worker had entered a loading pocket platform at the bottom of the ore pass to remove lockout locks to allow muck in the pass to flow out in order for the repair work to take place.

In communicating with the colleagues at the top of the pass, the worker said there was trouble in getting the muck to come down the pass to the skip. Shortly afterwards, the muck suddenly dropped. The muck contained a large amount of water-saturated shotcrete material which surged over the protective barriers and killed the contractor.

It was determined by investigators that at the loading pocket, the flow of muck was controlled by a guillotine gate, which an Impala worker had closed.

The court determined the SCR failed as an employer to comply with an Ontario regulation on conducting a workplace risk assessment that should have considered the location and placement of its personnel since drawing down muck could pose a danger to its workers.

The court also said that there was nothing in the LDI mine’s underground water management plan that had procedures in place to guard against the accumulation of water in typically dry ore passes, especially when repair work was taking place. Impala failed to ensure those measures and procedures were in place.

In the second incident, Impala was fined $50,000 following a Jan. 26. 2020 episode where a worker suffered critical injuries after falling from a scissor lift work platform while installing a silencer on a fan in the mine’s ventilation system. 

The guardrails on the platform had been removed. The court said Impala failed as an employer in adhering to a provincial regulation that walkways and work platform higher than 1.5 metres above ground shall provided with a handrail.