Mine death leads Vale to suspend Sudbury operations

Vale's general manager for Ontario says operations at all five mines in the Sudbury area will be suspended indefinitely while the death of a miner — 47-year-old Stephen Perry — is investigated.

Sudbury-area fatality the 4th in less than a year at Vale mines

Vale's Coleman Mine in Levack, Ont., is located northwest of Sudbury. (Yvon Theriault/CBC)

Vale's general manager for Ontario says operations at all five mines in the Sudbury area will be suspended indefinitely while the death of a miner — 47-year-old Stephen Perry — is investigated.

Kelly Strong said this is the first time he can remember this happening in his 11 years with company. The move affects close to 1,600 workers.

The president of the Steelworkers union local in Sudbury is calling Sunday's mining fatality "unacceptable."

Perry was killed Sunday afternoon while he was underground at Vale's Coleman Mine in Levack, Ont., northwest of Sudbury.

Union boss 'angry'

"It's a really difficult … I'm very angry," Rick Bertand said. "And the reason for that is … four fatalities in seven months is unacceptable — three in Sudbury, one in Thompson [Man.]."

Investigations by the company and the union are in the works. Ministry of Labour investigators were at the scene of Sunday's workplace death.

"All we know at this time is a worker was loading the face of the rock with explosives, from a man-basket, when the incident occurred," said ministry spokesman Matt Blajer.

Rick Bertrand, president of United Steelworkers Local 6500, says the union and Vale need to talk about a plan to improve safety.

At a Monday press conference, Vale said it appears a piece of the rock face fell on the miner, but the explosives he was working with did not play any part in the accident.

The ministry has issued two requirements to Vale: that it not disturb the area or any equipment until ministry inspectors give the OK and to release a number of documents related to training and equipment.

Bertand said a plan needs to be forged when it comes to health and safety at Vale mines.

"I think what we need to do is sit down in the room together — the Steelworkers and Vale — and have discussions about the health and safety and where we're at and where we need to go, because … this is unacceptable," Bertand said. "This can’t continue to happen."

Perry, who had worked for Vale for 16 years, was working in the main ore body at the 4,215-foot level of Coleman mine. He was found and brought to the surface, where he was subsequently pronounced dead by medical authorities.

'We are saddened and devastated by the loss of this employee,' says Kelly Strong, Vale general manager of Ontario operations. (Steve Howard/CBC)

"We are saddened and devastated by the loss of this employee," Strong said.

"Our deepest sympathies and prayers go out to the employee's family, and everyone who knew and worked with him. Our efforts are now focused on supporting the family and our employees at the mine site, and on understanding exactly what occurred."

The incident is also being investigated by the Greater Sudbury Police Service.

Last June, Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram were killed underground while working at Stobie Mine in Sudbury.

The two were overtaken by a run of rock material or "muck," when they opened a gate and the material overflowed into the area where they were working.

Sunday's fatality comes on the heels of a report released by Vale Wednesday, which discussed outcomes of the company's investigation into the June deaths.

According to Vale spokesperson Angie Robson, up until yesterday there were no Vale employees who have died at Coleman Mine, which has been in operation since 1970.

There have been four fatalities at Coleman Mine involving contractors, however — three in the late 1960s/early 1970s and one in 2002.