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Vale fined for 2020 worker injuries at Garson Mine

Nickel miner has paid $175,000 for health and safety violations
(File photo)

Vale Canada has been fined $175,000 for health and safety violations after two workers were injured, one of them critically, following a 2020 rock burst at Garson Mine.

The Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development issued a news release on March 29 detailing the activities that led to the incident.

According to the ministry, two Vale employees were working on the construction of a ramp underground at Garson Mine on Aug. 21, 2020. They had been bolting a large steel screen to a section of rock face and were in the process of unloading additional screening to finish the task when a seismic event occurred in the rock pillar behind the rock face.

The rock burst ejected rock, striking and injuring both workers, one of them critically.

Following an investigation, the ministry found the rock burst was caused by an undiscoverable angular plant in the rock that could not have been detected by Vale or its ground control engineers.

The ministry’s investigation also noted that more rock was being removed with each round of ramp construction than had been modelled on survey prints. Further, these conditions were not being communicated to Vale’s ground control engineers.

Although these factors did not contribute to, and could not have prevented, the rock burst, the ministry determined the company program lacked specifics as to the kind of information that workers should be communicating to their supervisors, and in turn, Vale’s ground control engineers.

The Mines and Mining Plants Regulation requires that each underground mine “develop a written program to provide for the timely communication of information between workers and supervisors in the mine respecting ground stability, ground movement, falls of ground….” Among other things, the communication program must set out the kind of information to be communicated.

Accordingly, the Company failed to ensure that measures and procedures prescribed by section 65 (1) of Ontario Regulation 854/90 (the Mines and Mining Plants Regulation) were carried out in the workplace, contrary to section 25 (1) (c) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Vale was convicted on Feb. 22, 2023, with Justice of the Peace Christine Leclair imposing a fine of $175,000.

The court also 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.