The fatal accident at Vale's Copper Cliff smelter this week may change the ongoing review of mine safety in the province.

Up until now, the committee had only been looking at underground safety practices, but since the smelter death on Sunday of 36 year-old Paul Rochette and the serious injury to his 28 year-old co-worker in the same incident, the review’s scope may widen.

The vice chair of the mining safety review committee that has been holding public hearings in Sudbury said there are six working groups already looking at specific areas of concern.

Fergus Kerr said the fatality at the smelter has brought attention to issues at mining companies’ surface plants — and the committee will consider striking a sub-committee to look at above ground safety issues.

Mines Review consultation

The Mines Review Safety Committee has been meeting in Sudbury to hear from the public on how the industry could be made safer. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

“We want to make sure we haven't missed an area that should be in the review,” he said.

“We're just going to scope it out and see whether it makes sense or not.”

Human consequences

Sunday's fatality in Sudbury hit close to home for Red Lake’s Tami Helgeson, who was scheduled to speak to the committee.

Helgeson lost her 20-year-old old son in a construction accident. She said she speaks out because people need to be reminded of the human consequences of unsafe workplaces

“This is what a safety conference is about. They throw out a bunch of numbers. But I am the face of a workplace tragedy. I'm the personal side. I'm the side that lives with it every day.”

Fergus said broadening the committee’s reach to include surface plants would allow them to look at additional hazards.

“Surface plants tend to be quite site-specific,” he said. “They're very different, from mine to mine, metal to metal. We have the two smelters in Ontario.”

He said the committee will look at the amount of work involved and see if the committee has the resources to take on another sub-committee.

Meanwhile, the mining workplace health and safety conference continues today in Sudbury.

The committee is considering putting out some interim recommendations in about six months.