Mining giant Vale Canada has been fined more than $1 million in connection with a fatal accident in 2011 in which miners were buried in a torrent of mud.

Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram were killed when wet mud and ore flooded the tunnel where they were working at Vale's Stobie Mine in Sudbury, Ont.,  on June 8, 2011.

Chenier and Fram were working in an ore pass at the 3000 foot level, transferring broken rock and ore upwards when there was a sudden release of muck, sand and water. The run of muck came through a transfer gate, burying one miner and hitting another causing massive crush injuries.

The Ministry of Labour laid charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act in the accident after finding there had been a blockage of wet muck in the ore pass. It also said Vale had failed to deal with earlier water issues in the mine.

The company was fined $1,050,000, the highest fine ever given under the health and safety act, by an Ontario court.

It pleaded guilty to three counts:

  • Failing to prevent the movement of material through an ore pass while hazardous conditions (the hang-up) existed.
  • Failing to maintain the drain holes at the 2400 level of the Stobie Mine, leading to the accumulation of water, creating wet muck which then hung up.
  • Failing to ensure that water, slimes and other wet material was not dumped into the ore pass at the 2600 foot level of the mine.

The union representing the workers said it believed the company should face criminal charges, but the province opted against laying any.

The court also imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge, that goes into a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.