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Lockerby Mine tragedy increases need for mine safety review: chair

Both died one month after Vale millwright Paul Rochette was killed when an ore crusher at the Copper Cliff smelter malfunctioned.
George Gritziotis, Ontario's chief prevention officer, said the fatal accident at the Lockerby Mine on Tuesday that killed two underground drillers has increased his resolve to dig deeper with the province's review of mining health and safety. File photo.
Both died one month after Vale millwright Paul Rochette was killed when an ore crusher at the Copper Cliff smelter malfunctioned.

At the time, Gritziotis said Rochette's death increased his conviction to push forward strong recommendations to improve health and safety in Ontario's mining sector.

“I believe it gave people more of an impetus to come out and have a conversation,” Gritziotis said.

He said Tuesday's accident was especially troubling because it has raised questions about ground control and mine stability, issues that have been on the safety review's radar.

“Just at a personal level, not that the first tragedy pales in comparison, but it was just that much more shocking and sad at a time that we're pushing this forward,” Gritziotis said.

The mining health and safety review completes its initial round of public consultations in London today.

During an annual Day of Mourning ceremony at the United Steelworkers Hall on April 28, United Steelworkers international president Leo Gerard said he was disappointed mining companies had not yet participated in the health and safety review's public consultations.

“I was shocked that after four fatalities in three years, Vale in particular didn't come to the hearing or ask to be heard at a future hearing,” Gerard said.

“If they choose to not participate, I would think that makes the work we have to do that much more difficult.”

But Gritziotis said the review panel did receive feedback from employers during recent public consultations in Red Lake and Marathon.

Mining companies have also prepared written submissions for the review, Gritziotis said.

“We are getting a nice balance,” he said about the review input so far.

Vic Pakalnis, president and CEO of MIRARCO, a Sudbury-based mining research institute, said he is confident the mining health and safety review can make meaningful recommendations.

“I have such great confidence in this panel,” he said. “First of all, because labour and management are both on this. We can't see this as an adversarial area. We have to work together to make sure the best science is put onto this.”

Jonathan Migneault

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