Glencore pleads guilty for role in Richard Pigeau's death

Glencore has agreed to pay $250,000 for the circumstances leading to Richard Pigeau's death.

The experienced miner died in 2015 after being ejected from the machine he was driving

(Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

​Glencore will pay $250,000 for the circumstances leading to Richard Pigeau's 2015 death.

Pigeau was an experienced miner at the company's Nickel Rim South mine in Sudbury, who was killed after he was ejected from the machine he was operating and crushed by one of its rear tires.

Glencore pleaded guilty today to not providing sufficient information, instruction and supervision to Pigeau with respect to the use of seatbelts in the machine.

Contact with wall ejected miner from machine

Court heard that Pigeau was driving down a ramp at normal speed, but his machine scraped a wall. Upon impact, the door to the operator compartment opened and Pigeau was ejected from the machine.

Pigeau was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the incident, although there was a functioning belt in the machine.

The machine kept moving for five seconds, but in that time, Pigeau had already been crushed by one of the rear tires.

Wes Wilson, the lawyer representing the Ministry of Labour, told the court that had Pigeau been wearing a seatbelt, he may have been injured, but it's unlikely he would have been killed.

Majority of charges dropped

The Ministry of Labour initially charged Glencore with seven offences under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, including two for hindering the ministry's investigation.

A supervisor working with Pigeau was also charged under the Occupational Health and Safety act.

All those charges have been dropped.

"The Crown is required to constantly be monitoring whether we have a reasonable prospect of conditions on each and every charge," Wilson told CBC News.

"With some of the charges withdrawn, I no longer felt that we had a sufficient case."

Wilson says Glencore's fine provides deterrence across Canada.

"Because Glencore is a huge company and a big player in the mining industry, it's also important that it serve as an example for other companies who may be facing similar situations," he says.

'The music stops and so does my heart'

Pigeau's daughter, Natalie Pigeau, brought a box of tissues with her to the stand as she told the court how she was affected by her loss.

"The whole thing still feels like a nightmare. I was left beyond numb," Pigeau said.

"As a hairstylist in a mining community, the topic was heavy...and became unbearable."

​Pigeau said her father was her best friend, and that she often listens to the music they'd play on road trips or boat rides.

"The music stops, and so does my heart," she said.

Glencore went 'above and beyond' after incident

Both the Ministry of Labour and Glencore agreed that the company improved safety measures after Pigeau's death.

Defense lawyer Ben Ratelband told the court that, among other measures, the company spent more than $800,000 to install two new warning systems in their Nickel Rim South equipment.

The systems have both visual and audible alarms when a door is open or when the operator isn't wearing a seatbelt while the machine is in use.

"This is obviously not about dollars, but direct costs of installations has been substantial," Ratelband said.

The company also improved the ergonomics of the seatbelts, making it more convenient for operators to go in and out of the machines during their shifts.

Justice Michael Kitlar told the court that the amount of effort Glencore put into improving their safety protocols is unprecedented.

 "What Glencore has something I've never heard before, and hope to hear in the future," Kitlar said.

Inquest to come

Glencore has 30 days to pay a total of $250,000. The company has been fined $200,000 and is facing an additional $50,000 victim fine surcharge.

The northern region coroner's office tells CBC news that an inquest team is yet to be assembled, but that process can start as long as there are no appeals to this decision.