No concerning water issues at First Nickel mine, says former Taurus Drilling owner

Defense lawyer John Illingworth began his case in the trial against First Nickel and Taurus Drilling by calling Roger Breau to the stand. Breau was the former owner, president and general manager for Taurus Drilling. The two mining companies are facing 12 charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act after the deaths of Norm Bisaillon and Marc Methe in 2014.

Roger Breau told court he wasn't aware of worksite safety issues until after fatal 2014 incident

First Nickel Inc's Lockerby mine was the site of a 2014 fall of ground that killed two Taurus Drilling Services workers. (First Nickel Inc.)

A former owner of Taurus Drilling Services says he didn't see anything worrisome in First Nickel's Lockerby mine before the fatal 2014 incident — a statement that contradicts the testimony of multiple witnesses.

Taurus Drilling and First Nickel Inc. are on trial in Sudbury for a total of 12 charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The charges are a result of a 2014 fall of ground that killed Norm Bisaillon and Marc Methe, two contract workers for Taurus at the time.

Roger Breau was the former owner, president and general manager of Taurus Drilling. The company was contracted to work in First Nickel's Lockerby mine, starting in 2012. Taurus was acquired by another company in July 2014 in an assets sale. It is now a numbered company.

Boss saw no water concerns

Breau told the court he visited the victims' worksite just weeks before the incident.

"There was some small drips [of water], but nothing of concern," he said.

Multiple witnesses testified earlier that the mine had dangerously high levels of water, and several employees didn't want to work in wet areas.

On Wednesday, court heard that Taurus workers reported troubles conducting blasts due to the mine's excessive humidity. The water would prevent explosives from detonating, causing more work and concerns for employees.

Breau said he was unaware of employees' concerns until after the fatal 2014 incident.

Bisaillon was 'very diligent' with work

Breau didn't know Methe well, but had a working relationship with Bisaillon for more than 20 years. He told the court that Bisaillon was a very capable individual, and if he had an issue with a worksite, he would "stand his ground on it."

Breau also said he didn't believe there was any indication that the site was unsafe.

"If there was, Norm would have seen it. He was very diligent that way — very aware of his surroundings," Breau told the court.

"The fact that they continued to work tells me he thought it was safe to do so."

Necessary extensive questioning

Defense lawyer John Illingworth also put Breau through extensive questioning about Taurus's responsibilities at the Lockerby mine, the types of explosives First Nickel told Taurus workers to use, details of blasting letters and shift log procedures.

"I think it's important for court to have an understanding of how a process is done," Illingworth told reporters after court. 

"In the absence of First Nickel, some of that explanation falls on us as well as the Crown to explain how a process is conducted."

Taurus Drilling is facing the following charges:

  • Failing to use efforts to determine the cause of a misfire that happened weeks before the fatal 2014 incident.
  • Failing to develop a communication plan for falls of ground and other emergencies.
  • Failing to examine ground conditions for dangers, and make it safe for workers.
  • Failing to provide adequate lighting for workers to do their jobs.