Vale Canada faces big fines in Thompson mine death

Mining giant Vale Canada has been charged with 10 counts of violating the workplace safety act in Manitoba.

Mining giant Vale Canada has been charged with 10 counts of violating the workplace safety act in Manitoba.

The charges, laid by the province's Workplace Safety and Health division on Oct. 3, come after the death of a 51-year-old man in the Vale mine in Thompson in 2011.

He died after a vehicle he was in fell into a pit in the mine. The pit was about 30 to 45 metres deep, reports said at the time.

The man was rushed to Thompson General Hospital and later transferred to Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre, where he died.

The man had worked with Vale for 23 years, according to the company.

Vale must now go to court to face the charges, though a date has yet to be set. A spokesperson with the province said penalties could include a fine of up to $250,000 per charge for a total not exceeding $2,500,000.

In addition, a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months could be ordered.

Company, union carried out investigation

Vale Canada spokesperson Ryan Land says the company, along with the union representing its workers, carried out an investigation.

A report containing 21 recommendations has been submitted to the province, said Land, who added that Vale is in the process of implementing those recommendations.

"We believe that there's no greater way to honour his memory than to remain vigilant in our commitment to managing  risk in our workplace and ensuring that a tragedy like this is never repeated," he said.

It's the first time a mine has been charged in Manitoba in connection to the death of a worker, according to Murray Nychyporuk of the United Steelworkers Union, who said the charges are a wake-up call to the industry.

"Oh, it's not just Vale. I think it's a clear message by the mines'  branch that you have to provide a safe workplace and they're going to be very strict," he said.

Nychyporuk said there have been a number of improvements in the mine but did not state specifically what has been done.

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