Two miners killed in Sudbury
SUDBURY, ONT. – Vale management and workers in Sudbury, Ont., are reeling from the deaths of two young miners, killed late Wednesday on the 3,000-foot level of Stobie Mine.
“This is a devastating loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families, friends and co-workers of these employees,” Jon Treen, general manager of Vale’s Ontario operations, told a press conference Thursday in Copper Cliff, Ont.
“We are all feeling this loss very deeply and we will be concentrating our efforts on understanding exactly what happened and how to prevent it in the future.”
The two men – identified by Greater Sudbury Police as Jordan Fram, 26, and Jason Chenier, 35 – were working in the No. 7 ore pass area when a run of muck struck them, said Treen.
Chenier and Fram had 11 and six years experience, respectively.
“Both workers are skilled employees and wonderful people,” he said. “Words cannot express how deep our sorrow is at their loss.”
Three five-person mine rescue teams reached the accident scene in 80 minutes. While the primary Vale mine rescue team for Greater Sudbury operations is now in Marathon, Ont., attending a provincial competition, the company has a pool of 80 trained people to call in, said Treen.
When the mine rescue teams reached the two men, neither had vital signs.
“It took us a while to reach one individual,” said Treen. “The mine rescue teams did a tremendous job. They had to remove some of the ore to get them.”
There were 60 miners in the mine, which has been in operation since 1944, at the time of the tragedy.
Treen said day and night shifts at the mine had been cancelled, but the goal was to resume production over the next 24 hours.
Police investigators spent the night at the accident scene and were expected to release it to ministry of labour investigators later in the day Thursday.
Vale and United Steelworkers Local 6500 investigators are also looking into the accident.
“We have a very good investigative team that works with (Local) 6500 investigators,” said Treen.
When asked how the accident might have happened, Treen said he could not comment.
“At this point in time, we have to figure out what happened with the investigation,” he said.
Treen did say that one of the men would have been operating a scooptram, similar to a front-end loader, while the other would have been assisting.
“Working and operating in the ore pass is fairly common,” he said. “We won’t know what they were doing until the investigation is complete.”
Joe Guido, a Local 6500 representative who attended the press conference, told reporters that the union’s “deepest condolences” go out to the men’s families.
He also declined to comment on how the accident might have happened.
“We really can’t comment on the accident,” he said. “It would be unfair to do so.”
Greater Sudbury Police Const. Bert Lapalme said police investigators worked through the night at the mine.
“I know they spoke to a number of (Stobie) workers last night,” he said. “At this point, it’s trying to put the pieces together and determine if there was any criminal activity. Then, it will be turned over to the ministry of labour.”
Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand said Mike Bond, chairman of the local’s health and safety committee, had been at the accident scene.
The last time a fatality occurred at a local Vale (formerly Inco) worksite was in March 2006, also at Stobie Mine. Robert Nesbitt, 57, was crushed by a concrete and steel platform while remotely operating a scooptram.
“If it’s 20 years ago, it’s too recent,” Bertrand said. “It doesn’t matter how long ago it was.”
One veteran miner said the accident shows that mining remains a dangerous job.
“It takes eight-10 years to really train a miner underground and that is if he is with an experienced miner,” said the man, who declined to give his name. “It doesn’t happen overnight. You develop instincts. You have to become instinctive.”
The man said that there is a lot of pressure in the mining industry now to take new people who may only have their Common Core mining training and put them right to work in production. That’s dangerous, he said.
“You have to be able to ‘read’ the ground,” said the man. “What is the ground doing? Why is it (rock) so crumbly?”