Sudbury

7 recommendations after Lockerby Mine coroner's inquest

A jury has put forward seven recommendations after an inquest looking into the 2014 deaths of two workers who died at First Nickel's Lockerby Mine in Sudbury.

Several recommendations were directed at the Ministry of Labour

An inquest looking into the deaths of two workers at First Nickel's Lockerby Mine in Sudbury in 2014 has wrapped up. (First Nickel Inc.)

A jury has put forward seven recommendations after an inquest looking into the 2014 deaths of two workers who died at First Nickel's Lockerby Mine in Sudbury.

This week, a coroner's inquest has been looking into the deaths of Marc Methé, 34 and Normand Bisaillon, 49 who died while working underground.

They were hit and killed by a fall of material.

The five-person jury released its seven recommendations on Friday.

A number of recommendations were directed towards the Ministry of Labour, including the development of legislation for re-entry protocol after a recorded seismic event in an underground mine, creating guidelines pertaining to ground control and requiring mining companies in Ontario to ensure proper communication of the existence of potential or actual danger of contract workers on their property.

Other recommendations include training protocols and ensuring important information is in prominent locations in each workplace.

In a statement to CBC, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour said "the Ministry of Labour is always interested in Coroner's Jury recommendations that are aimed at enhancing the health and safety of Ontario workers. We have received the recommendations from the inquest and will give them serious and thoughtful review."

After an emotional week, Bisaillon's wife, Romeena Kozoriz says she's optimistic that the recommendations will be implemented.

"It's one day at a time, we have our good day and our bad days, five and a half years to get here is a long time. You don't start to heal until it's totally finished. So hopefully from this day forward now our lives will be a little bit better and we can move forward," said Kozoriz.

It's been an emotional week, but Romeena Kozoriz says she's confident that the recommendations will be implemented. (Jamie-Lee McKenzie/CBC)

Family friend and union rep Dave Stewart has been supporting Kozoriz and her family through the trial and the inquest. He also says he believes the recommendations will be implemented.

"It's imperative to everyone's safety... quality control, continuous inspection, daily inspections, every miner has a responsibility so when it comes down to training, competency underground, our miners [and] engineers, everybody that sets foot underground has responsibility," said Stewart.

During the inquest, a number of witnesses were called to speak.

On Thursday, Mike Kat, a Ministry of Labour engineer who inspected the site following the deaths spoke. He told the jury that the support systems in place in the mine were insufficient and were compromised by corrosion and the accumulation of water.

Earlier in the week, two contract workers told the jury they had both filed separate safety concerns about certain areas of the mine. Both say managers eventually sent them back to work without resolving the issue. Neither said they felt the complaint process was handled properly.

However, a health and safety representative at the mine, Ron Sizer, told the jury he didn't receive any information about work refusals or safety concerns until after the deaths of Methé and Bisaillon.

The workers direct supervisor, Wade Johnso,n told the jury the night Methé and Bisaillon were killed they had their own safety concerns in the area where they were scheduled to work. A large amount of muck was present where a blast had taken place. Johnson says he went to the area to have a look for himself.

Johnson says he, Methé and Bisaillon all did a safety check to ensure the area was okay to work in. All three signed off on it. A few hours later, the bodies of Methé and Bisaillon were found under a muck pile.

Role of an inquest

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

The case has already been 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 Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act, the highest fine ever issued under the act.

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

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With files from Jamie-Lee McKenzie