The mining contractor at Yukon Zinc Corp.’s Wolverine mine said it was just following orders when it sent workers underground to unsafe conditions.
Lawyers for Procon Mining and Tunneling Ltd. made the arguments in Yukon Territorial court this week. Procon is charged in connection with the 2010 death of an underground worker.
Will Fisher, a 25-year-old mechanic, was crushed when a stabilized underground area caved in. He's the second worker to die at the silver-zinc mine, which is located 200 kilometres south of Ross River and about 400 kilometres northeast of Whitehorse.
The mine’s owners, Yukon Zinc Corp., pleaded guilty this week to safety violations and accepted the maximum $150,000 fine.
The contractor, Procon pleaded guilty too, but the company’s lawyer maintains it is less responsible.
Investigators have now determined it was an accident waiting to happen, as there had been three "near miss" cave ins with no injuries that went unreported leading up to Fisher’s death.
James Sutherland told the court, "we're just foot soldiers" and Yukon Zinc geologists control the underground operations.
He said Procon "maybe should have been more assertive" about safety concerns. But Sutherland insisted the company’s only choice would have been to stop work and shut down the entire operation and the 330 jobs at stake.
Judge John Faulkner said he will sentence Procon next week.