Métanor Resources "acted in a way that jeopardized" the safety of three gold miners who drowned underground in northern Quebec last year, says a report released this week by the province's workplace safety board. 

The mining company breached three safety practices at its Bachelor Lake gold mine in Desmaraisville, the board, known as the CSST, found.

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An undated photo of Métanor's Bachelor Lake mine in Desmaraisville, Que. Quebec's workplace safety board says the mining company acted in a way that jeopardized the safety of three miners killed underground last year. ((Métanor/Canadian Press))

Those breaches ultimately cost the three miners —  Marc Guay, 31, Domenico Bollini, 44, and Bruno Goulet, 36 — their lives

"We consider that the employer, Métanor Resources, acted in a way that jeopardized the workers' safety," said CSST spokesman Pierre Turgeon.

Métanor faces fines ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 for the safety breaches — penalties the mining company said it will contest.

"We don't think we were negligent," said Pierre Bernaquez, a human resources superintendent with Métanor.

Two levels of mine flooded

The three miners were killed Oct. 30, 2009, while doing repair work about half a kilometre below ground at the gold facilities.

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Métanor's water pump system was broken when the miners went underground for repairs. ((CSST))

They were lowered into a shaft via elevator the night of Oct. 30 without a standard test run to make sure the area was safe, the CSST found.

Unbeknownst to them, the shaft had been filling with water for at least 10 days because of a broken pumping system. 

They drowned because "they just didn't know that there was water at the bottom of the mine," Turgeon said.

The men's bodies were frozen blocks of ice by the time rescue teams were able to reach their cage, three days after they descended.

No one was alerted to the flooding in the mine shaft because a warning alarm was unplugged, the CSST found.

No one working at the surface flagged the broken water pump either, even though a computer system tracks how much water is siphoned out of the mine on a daily basis, the report said.

By the time the men went down, the mine's bottom two levels were flooded without drawing any attention from staff at the surface.

The deadly accident prompted a province-wide review of mining safety systems.

A safety blitz was done at all 27 mines in Quebec "to ensure that all the water detection systems are operational and part of an integrated safety system," said Turgeon.

The Bachelor Lake gold mine had been shut down since the mid-90s when Métanor Resources decided to reopen it in 2008.

The facilities are located about 600 kilometres north of Montreal.