Vale fatal accident report stuns mining community
Miners press for 'criminal consequences,' company denies allegations of negligence
It's an emotional time for miners in Sudbury, Ont., who have learned the details of a union investigation into the deaths of two workers at the Frood-Stobie mine last June.
Dozens of unionized workers were briefed Wednesday in special meetings following the release of the 207-page report by United Steelworkers (USW) Local 6500.
The union released its findings after an investigation into how Jason Chenier, 35, and Jordan Fram, 26, were killed. The two were caught in a run of muck, described by the union as an avalanche of wet rocks, gravel and sand.
'I was a little shocked with the amount of water that I saw in the photos in the report. They always described it as wet muck. Like porridge basically. That was how my impression was basically. So when I saw pools of water just going on forever, it just set my mind that something could have been done and should have been done.'—Vale employee Jamie West
In its report, the union alleges Chenier and Fram died because of "ongoing and documented neglect of safety standards" by Vale.
The union has called on the provincial Ministry of the Attorney General to consider laying criminal charges, a request Francis Roy agrees with. Roy worked alongside Chenier and Fram at the mine.
"To me, if there's no criminal consequences to the investigation, it's a sad sad country we're living in," Roy said.
Vale employee Jamie West was taken aback by the union's report.
"I was a little shocked with the amount of water that I saw in the photos in the report. They always described it as wet muck. Like porridge basically. That was how my impression was, basically. So when I saw pools of water just going on forever, it just set my mind that something could have been done and should have been done," he told CBC.
Union investigators say several factors contributed to the men's deaths, including drain holes they say were blocked mostly with rock and sand, allowing muck and water to accumulate.
"Supervisors had little experience or training respecting the maintenance of the drainage system. Mine management is responsible to ensure that front-line supervisors are trained and knowledgeable on water management," the report said.
Chenier was a supervisor with 11 years of service at Vale. Fram was an hourly worker with six years of service at the company.
The union was also critical of the company for its stand over the course of the eight-month investigation, saying, "Vale officials refused to be interviewed by members of the USW team," although union members "co-operated fully in management's investigation."
Company finds no workers at fault
Tim Levesque, who works at the Coleman mine, said the company tells workers "the safety for our employees is the No. 1 thing in our minds."
"I don't believe [it]," he said. "I want to believe it, but I don't."
"Unfortunately, someone's going to have to take responsibility," Levesque added.
Company officials have said they reject the Steelworker's allegations of negligence.
A statement from Vale said the union's report does not contain new facts; it just interprets the facts from the company's investigation differently.
Last month, Vale released its own report following its investigation into the deaths, which did not find any individuals at fault.
The company said it stands behind its own findings and will defend its employees if necessary.