About 40 people were in a Sudbury court on Tuesday to hear that mining giant Vale will pay more than $1 million in fines in connection with the deaths of Jordan Fram and Jason Chenier.
Among them were family members of the two men who died in a mudslide of rock and muck underground at Vale’s Stobie Mine in Sudbury. As they read victim impact statements to the court, they spoke of the loss and grief they have endured since the men died in June of 2011.
Vale was given the largest fine ever levied under Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act. The company has pleaded guilty to three charges:
- Failing to prevent the movement of material through an ore pass while hazardous conditions existed.
- Failing to maintain the drain holes at the 2,400-foot level of the Stobie Mine, leading to the accumulation of water, creating wet muck which then hung up.
- Failing to ensure that water, slimes and other wet material was not dumped into the ore pass at the 2,600-foot level of the mine.
Vale was fined $350,000 for each count.
Keith Birnie, the supervisor of the deceased men, had also been facing six charges, but the Crown elected to drop its case against Birnie, saying there was a slim chance of conviction.
The vice president of Vale's Ontario Operations said, while nothing can bring Fram and Chenier back, the company has become much more committed to workplace safety in the wake of the tragedy.
"We continue to improve safety every day, and it's my commitment that we continue to do that going forward,” Kelly Strong said.
The deal with the Crown gives the case “closure,” Crown prosecutor David McCaskill said.
"It gives certainty,” he said. “It saves the uncertainty and the cost and expense of a trial."