Vale supervisor could face jail time

Ministry of Labour lays 15 charges against Vale and manager Keith Birnie in wake of fatal mining deaths

Nickel mining giant Vale and one of its employees will appear in a Sudbury courtroom next month on charges laid in the deaths of two miners. The Ministry of Labour laid the 15 charges after investigating the fatal accident at Stobie Mine last year.

On Aug. 14, Vale and staff superintendent Keith Birnie will appear in court to face the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act charges — nine counts for the company and six for Birnie.

The charges are very technical. Each charge describes specific ways in which the Ministry of Labour alleges that "reasonable precautions" were not taken to protect Jordan Fram and Jason Chenier.

The Steelworkers union did its own investigation into the deaths, and that report repeatedly names Keith Birnie, as well as other staff supervisors.

One thing the court is expected determine next month is whether or not Birnie and Vale will be tried together.

If convicted of these provincial offences, the mining company could pay as much as $500,000 in fines and Birnie could be fined or go to jail for a year.