Workers Health & Safety Centre

Ontario Government to Review Mine Safety

Ontario Government to Review Mine Safety
The Ontario Ministry of Labour has announced they will launch a formal Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review.
This announcement follows months of advocacy and lobbying by the United Steelworkers (USW) union and the MINES (Mining Inquiry Needs Everyone’s Support) Committee, which includes families of miners killed at work.
Details of exactly how this review will unfold have yet to be released. Those involved in pressuring the province to conduct it though are hopeful it will help make Ontario mines safer in a matter of months.
“This review is happening because workers, their families and communities have demanded the Ontario government recognize that too many miners have been killed or injured on the job,” said United Steelworkers Union (USW) Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand.
“We are all counting on this review to produce timely and meaningful action to significantly improve health and safety in our industry,” said Bertrand whose local represents 2,600 workers at Vale’s mining operations in Sudbury, Ontario.
The call for preventative action was made after USW completed an eight-month investigation into the deaths of two men at Vale Canada’s Stobie Mine in Sudbury. Jordan Fram, 35, and Jason Chenier, 26 (pictured here) were killed after 350 tons of muck overran them while they were working at the 3,000-foot level of the mine. Vale was fined more than $1,000,000 for violations of the Occupational Health & Safety Act that resulted in the workers’ deaths.   
Originally representatives of USW and MINES had called for a public inquiry, however the government resisted choosing instead to conduct a formal review. After extensive discussions with the labour minister and his staff, the union reached an agreement on a process to address the union’s concerns.
“The promised review is better than the inquiry the union had been pushing for,” says USW staff representative Myles Sullivan. “As recommendations come out they can be acted upon and implemented immediately due to their level of importance, instead of waiting until the end of the process like an inquiry would do”, said Sullivan.
The review committee will be chaired by George Gritziotis, the province’s Chief Prevention Officer. All stakeholders will be represented on the committee, including MINES chairperson Wendy Fram (mother of Jordan Fram).
The MINES committee was established in 2011 by volunteers “with the mission of protecting those working in the mining industry and to prevent further fatalities.”  The MINES campaign called for a mining safety inquiry in response to eight mining deaths since 2011.  Their campaign also advocates a major overhaul of Ontario’s health and safety mining regulations which have not changed substantially in 35 years.
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