Inquests into the mining deaths of Jordan Fram, Jason Chenier and Stephen Perry could begin as soon as early fall, according to the regional supervising coroner for Northern Ontario.
“We're preparing the investigations,” said Dr. David Eden, the region's supervising coroner.
Eden said it's difficult to pin down a schedule for the inquests due to the nature of workplace death investigations.
“It's in the nature of investigations that you can find things that you didn't expect,” he said. “I would say I'm optimistic, but I can't give a commitment to setting a timing in the fall simply because I don't know what the investigating officers are going to find.”
Fram, 26, and Chenier, 35, were killed by a 350-ton run of muck at the 3,000-foot level of Vale's Stobie Mine on June 8, 2011.
Vale pleaded guilty to three charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and was fined $1,050,000 on Sept. 17, 2013 in relation to their deaths.
The company originally faced nine charges, while supervisor Keith Birnie faced six.
Perry, 47, was killed on Jan. 29, 2012, when a 14-ton chunk of rock broke from the wall at the 4,215-foot level of the main ore body at Vale's Coleman Mine and crushed him.
Eden said the inquests did not start earlier because the Coroner's Act states all charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act must be resolved first.
Fram and Chenier's workplace deaths could fall under the same inquest, he said, because they were killed in the same incident.
Right now, Eden said, the coroner's office is preparing detailed inquest briefs. When the briefs are completed he will meet with the coroner's counsel – a Crown attorney – to officially begin the inquests.
After Fram and Chenier were killed, their families helped form the Mining Inquiry Needs Everyone's Support (MINES) Committee.
The committee worked with the United Steelworkers to lobby the provincial government for a mining health and safety inquiry.
Instead, the province opted for a review, which has completed an initial round of public consultations and is set to recommend amendments to government regulations where appropriate later this year.