Health and safety charges have been laid against Vale and one of its supervisors in the deaths of two Sudbury, Ont., miners.
Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram died when a torrent of wet mud and ore flooded the tunnel where they were working at Vale's Stobie Mine in Sudbury on June 8, 2011.
Vale has been charged with nine counts under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the unnamed supervisor faces six counts.
Vale says there were a number of factors contributing to the miners' deaths and it's implementing measures to address those factors.
United Steelworkers International president Leo Gerard says the union believes the deaths of Chenier and Fram could have been avoided. The union claims Vale ignored ongoing problems with flooding in the mine.
"We believe this tragedy could warrant criminal charges and we need our government to investigate fully to determine if such charges are in order," Gerard said Thursday.
Rick Bertrand, president of USW Local 6500, which represents workers at Vale's Sudbury workers, said the charges against Vale are warranted.
"However, these charges against Vale fall far short of the urgent, comprehensive action that is needed to better protect workers," Bertrand said.
Chenier and Fram are among 8,000 workplace fatalities that have occurred in Canada since the Westray Act became law in 2004, said Ken Neumann of the USW.
"The Westray Act amended our Criminal Code to ensure that corporations and their executives and directors would be held criminally accountable for putting workers' lives in danger," Neumann said.
"Despite 8,000 deaths, not a single executive, director or manager has been jailed."
Vale called the charges a "very serious matter," adding it would not be commenting further while the matter is before the courts.