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Mining at Vale's Frood-Stobie complex dates back to the 1800s. The Stobie underground portion, where the accident took place, opened in 1944. (CBC)

Sudbury police have identified two men who died Wednesday night in an accident at Vale's Stobie Mine in Sudbury, Ont.

Jason Chenier, 35, and Jordan Fram, 26, were fatally injured while working about 900 metres below the surface, police said in a statement released Thursday.

The two men were working on an ore pass — a vertical opening where ore is dropped to a lower level for handling — when there was "a run of muck" at about 10 p.m. ET, a Vale spokesman said.

Muck — sometimes-wet waste material removed during mining — was being moved and then gave way, "effectively burying the two men."

Earlier accidents

While Vale has won industry awards for safety in its formerly Inco-owned mines in Sudbury and in Manitoba, there have been recent incidents at the Stobie Mine in Sudbury, CBC's Megan Thomas reported.

In 2006, there was a death in the mine, when a worker was crushed by a piece of equipment.

In December 2010, three people were injured when a piece of mining equipment called a scoop tram crashed into other equipment underground.

Elsewhere in Ontario, a drilling contractor, 28, died in an accident Jan. 6 at an Xstrata mine near Timmins. The accident occurred about 2,400 metres underground at the Copper Kidd Mine.

It took rescuers about 1½ hours to reach the miners, by which time they were dead.

Rick Bertrand, president of the United Steel Workers local, confirmed that the two miners were in an area where people pick up the muck.

"You really have to watch down there that the muck doesn't become loose," he said. "It's one of the dangers we face."

According to the company, work at the nickel-copper mine has stopped, and counselling and support are being offered to employees.

"This is a devastating loss, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families, friends and co-workers of these employees," said Jon Treen, general manager of Ontario operations. "We are concentrating our efforts on supporting the families and our employees at the mine site, and on investigating the incident to understand exactly what occurred."

At a later news conference on Thursday in Copper Cliff, Treen said the two men were "both skilled employees and wonderful people."

There is both an open pit and an underground mine at the complex, one of many mines Vale has in Sudbury. The accident happened in the underground part of the mine, known as Stobie.

Mining at the complex dates back to the 1800s. The underground portion opened in 1944.

The deaths will be investigated by the company, Sudbury police, the Ontario Ministry of Labour, and the United Steelworkers local.

 

With files from CBC's Megan Thomas and The Canadian Press