Nfld. & Labrador

IOC dust levels worse than ever, union leader says

A local union representative in western Labrador says the dust levels of the Iron Ore Company of Canada mines are worse than ever.
Ron Thomas, local union president, says IOC has provided gear for workers to help combat dust levels, but that's just not enough to deal with the environment. (CBC)

A local union representative in western Labrador says the dust levels of the Iron Ore Company of Canada mines are worse than ever.

IOC says it has spent more money on dust control — more than $7.2-million since 2011.

But Ron Thomas, president of local branch 5795, said the conditions in the mines are a huge mess.

"Things are getting worse at IOC," he said. "I mean, we have an expansion put in, and I honestly believe that the company put a lot of money into the expansion, but our dust levels are getting worse now than they've ever been."
A union leader in Labrador City says IOC needs to find ways to reduce dust levels to make the working environment better for employees. (CBC)

Thomas said the personal protection equipment the company provides for its workers just isn't enough.

"It's good to supply [personal protection equipment] and everything else, but that's just putting a Band-Aid on it," he said.

"We need this company to actually focus more on the dust conditions and find ways to get it down."

Eagerly awaiting medical audit report

Thomas's plea comes as a provincial audit of the medical records for mine workers, and how their health is impacted by dust levels, hits the halfway point.

He pushed the provincial government last spring to get the tests started to find a way to reduce the risk of a deadly lung disease caused by silica dust.

"The government committed in 2013 that they would go ahead with this dust study — it's a big thing for our members to review all of the chest x-rays," Thomas said.

Thomas said the issue extends to workers across IOC's mines.

"We have expediencies right across the project right from the mine to the pellet plant, and even in the concentrator. I mean, it's a huge issue for us."

He said the workers and the union will anxiously await the results, which are due to come out in 2015.

IOC said it will continue to invest money into health and safety, maintaining it as their most important responsibility.


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