Sudbury

Former contract workers at Lockerby Mine express concerns in how safety complaints handled

Two contract employees who worked at First Nickel's Lockerby Mine say they have concerns in how safety complaints were handled.

Coroner's inquest underway looking into the 2014 deaths of two Sudbury miners

Marc Methe, 34, and Norm Bisaillon, 49, were killed on the job early on May 6, 2014. An inquest looking into their death's is now underway in Sudbury. (CBC)

Two contract employees who worked at First Nickel's Lockerby Mine say they have concerns in how safety complaints were handled.

A five-day inquest is underway looking into the fatalities which happened at First Nickel's Lockerby Mine in Sudbury, Ont. in 2014.

In May 2014, Marc Methé, 34, and Normand Bisaillon, 49, were killed by a fall of material while working underground. They were both employed by Taurus Drilling, which had been contracted to do work at the site by First Nickel.

A five-person jury is hearing from a total of 11 witnesses during the inquest.

On Tuesday, Andre Geseron spoke at the inquest. He worked for Taurus Drilling for about 10 years, starting in 2008.

He told the jury in December 2013 he started the work refusal process at Lockerby Mine due to safety concerns. Geseron says he filed the request after he noticed bolts snapping on the ground in the mine.

Initially, Geseron says he was assigned to work in another area of the mine.

"I really didn't feel safe," Geseron told the inquest. Eventually, he says a senior manager told him to "man up" and he was sent back to work.

Another contract worker, Bobby Kilganon also said he worked for Taurus at the time of the fatal incident involving Methé and Bisaillon. 

In April 2014, he filed a safety complaint after seeing hanging shotcrete in the mine. Shotcrete is used in mining to support a wall or slope. 

Initially, Kilganon says a supervisor roped off the area. But the next day, Kilganon says he had a dispute with a different manager about his safety concerns. He says he was eventually sent back to the location where he had filed the safety complaint about.

Neither Kilganon or Geseron say they feel the complaint process was handled properly.

Excess water drove supervisor 'nuts'

Former First Nickel supervisor Wade Johnson was questioned on Tuesday. He was the direct supervisor for Methé and Bisaillon.

Johnson told the jury there were many issues with excess water in the mine. He added it drove him "nuts" to keep track of where the water was at Lockerby Mine.

He says when Methé and Bisaillon started their shift, they had safety concerns with the area they were scheduled to work in. A large amount of muck was present where blast had taken place. They called Johnson who visited the site to have a look for himself.

Johnson says he went to the site and the three did a safety check to ensure the area was ok to work in. All three signed off on the report and Methé and Bisaillon went to work.

A few hours later, Johnson says he got word a contractor, Redpath, wanted to do a blast. However, when Johnson went to account for his workers, he realized Methé and Bisaillon were missing.

Bruce Peters, who worked at Redpath, also spoke at the inquest on Tuesday. He said he was already underground when Johnson told him some of his workers were missing.

Peters went to the location where Methé and Bisaillon were working and said when he got there, the equipment in the area was still on. He told the inquest there were no lights or sounds which he "found odd."

He searched for the workers but couldn't find them. Peters says he then realized there was a large pile of muck where Methé and Bisaillon should have been working. He told the inquest he assumed the two were under the muck pile and he then reported it.

Inquest role

The inquest is not meant to assign blame, but rather make recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future. In Ontario, it is mandatory to hold an inquest when a death occurs on the job at a construction site, mine, pit or quarry.

The case has already gone before the courts.

In February 2018, the now defunct First Nickel was fined $1.3 million. The company was also found guilty of six charges under the province's Occupational Health and Safety Act, the highest fine ever imposed under the act.

Taurus Drilling, the contractor Methé and Bisaillon worked for, was acquitted on the four charges laid against it.

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