The 36-year-old employee who died at the Copper Cliff smelter in Sudbury, Ont., on the weekend suffered severe head trauma, Vale's vice-president of Ontario and U.K. operations Kelly Strong says.
Addressing the media Monday morning, Strong said both the man who died and a 28-year-old man who was injured were industrial mechanics working in the crushing and casting area, where hot metal is poured, cooled and then crushed.
Strong said they had about 20 years of professional experience between them, although they were relatively new employees with Vale.
The workers were discovered by the superintendent.
According to Sudbury police, emergency services were called to the smelter at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday ET.
The fatally injured worker was declared dead at the scene, Strong said. The other worker, who suffered a concussion and lacerations to the face, was rushed to hospital, where he's now in stable condition.
United Steelworkers Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand said he believes the incident occurred when a huge metal piston that's meant to break up rock broke off. This hammer got into the crushing system and the system became "hung up." When the broken part let go, there was a subsequent release of pressure from the machinery.
Vale said it is withholding the name of the man who died until all of his family members have been notified.
“We are saddened beyond words by the loss of this employee,” Strong said.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the employee’s family, co-workers and friends. We are focusing our efforts on trying to understand exactly what happened, and on supporting the family and our employees as best we can.”
Sudbury's mayor offered her sympathies in a news release issued Monday.
"On behalf of city council and all citizens of Greater Sudbury, I offer my condolences to the family, friends and co-workers of the individual. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time,” Marianne Matichuk said.
Sudbury police and the Ontario Ministry of Labour, as well as representatives of Vale and the United Steelworkers Local 6500, are investigating.
Strong said smelter workers were sent home after the incident, and the plant is currently not operating.