The Ontario Ministry of Labour will be conducting a comprehensive review of mines across the province to improve the health and safety for workers.
The ministry collaborated with the MINES Committee, the United Steelworkers and the Ontario Mining Association in developing the review process. Thousands of Ontarians signed on to the MINES Committee's campaign calling on the province to hold a commission of inquiry into mining health and safety.
"From day one, this has been about making sure miners across this province stay safe and go home to their families at the end of their shift,” said Yasir Naqvi, labour minister. “A review will help ensure an even safer and stronger industry.”
Stronger health and safety laws and regulations also are crucial in light of new mining development expected in coming years, particularly in Northern Ontario's mineral-rich Ring of Fire region, said Marty Warren, the USW's Ontario director.
The mine safety review's terms of reference reflect serious health and safety issues identified by USW, including findings from the union's landmark investigation into the June 2011 deaths of Sudbury miners Jordan Fram and Jason Chenier.
The USW investigation found the deaths of Fram and Chenier could have been avoided and that Vale had ignored numerous safety issues at its Stobie Mine.
The review's terms of reference also reflect issues raised by other recent mining fatalities, including the 2007 death of Lyle Dufoe at the Kidd Creek Mine in Timmins.
Concrete issues identified in the review's terms of reference that require meaningful action include:
• ground stability and water management practices
• open holes, proper barricades and warning systems
• technological changes affecting health and safety in underground mines
• the so-called internal responsibility system and employer/labour conflict
• capacity of Ministry of Labour staff to meet enforcement and regulatory needs.
The review has a mandate to recommend changes to provincial legislation and regulations. Although a final report is expected within one year, the review can call for legislative and regulatory changes at any time while the process in underway.
"The review's mandate indicates that we can expect meaningful action within months, not years, to improve health and safety," Bertrand said. "Our miners, families and communities are counting on fundamental legislative and regulatory change that will eliminate hazards, hold corporations to account and prevent injuries and fatalities.”
Details of Ontario's mining health, safety and prevention review:
• To be chaired by George Gritziotis, Ontario's Chief Prevention Officer, with two vice-chairs - one from labour and the other representing employers.
• Labour, employer and government representatives also will work on an advisory task group to provide advice on various issues.
• Open and broad consultations with workers, employers, academics, health and safety organizations and other interested parties in Ontario's mining communities.
• Examination of methods for effective conflict resolution between employers and workers with regard to mining health and safety prevention.
• Study of best practices in other jurisdictions and emerging research into mining practices.
• Examination of results and implementation of recommendations from previous mining-related coroners' jury reports and mining inquiries.
• A final report will be due in one year, but recommendations for health and safety improvements can be made at any time, including while the review is in process.