inco2

A 53-year-old employee of Vale Inco died early Tuesday in this nickel mine in Thompson, Man. ((CBC))

The explosion that killed a 53-year-old man in a northern Manitoba mine on Tuesday was not a spontaneous, accidental blast, RCMP say.

And it had nothing to do with normal operations at the Vale Inco nickel mine in Thompson, said RCMP spokesperson Line Karpish.

"None of what happened has anything to do with mining activities," she said. "There was an explosion, yes, but it was unrelated to the operation of the mine."

A spokesperson for Manitoba's Workplace Safety and Health Division told CBC that investigators are still on the scene but foul play is not suspected.

An RCMP investigation is being conducted in consultation with the provincial medical examiner and Manitoba's Workplace Safety and Health Division into the "precise circumstances leading to the explosion," an RCMP news release issued Wednesday said.

CBC has learned the explosion was caused by a stick of dynamite.

'When you have a tragedy of this sort, that not only affects the miners in the mine, but it also affects the families and the whole community.' —Les Ellsworth, United Steelworkers

The man, an employee of the mine and a resident of Thompson, 770 kilometres north of Winnipeg, failed Tuesday morning to report at a regular check-in time in the underground work area known as T1. His body was discovered after other workers went looking for him, RCMP said.

The incident happened at about 6 a.m., in a section about 1,220 metres underground.

The entire mine was shut down for a brief time Tuesday after the discovery of the body, but work has since resumed in all areas but the T1 section, said David Markham, spokesperson for Vale Inco in Thompson.

"The Thompson mine actually reopened [Tuesday] at around 7 p.m. It was cleared by the workplace safety and health branch at that time, and work resumed at that time," he said.

Vale Inco has offered counselling to staff, family and friends of the man.

Les Ellsworth, president of United Steelworkers Local 6166 in Thompson, said the incident has been terrible for the whole community.

"Miners are very close people. They work very close," he said. "And when you have a tragedy of this sort, that not only affects the miners in the mine, but it also affects the families and the whole community as one."

Ellsworth said there were two workplace fatalities at the mine in 1997 and another death a year ago at one of the other mines. The latter was ruled a suicide.