'There's not enough fear'
The fact that the Ministry of Labour issued 41 orders against Vale after a recent inspection of its Stobie Mine isn't surprising to Jodi Blasutti.
“I wasn't shocked at all,” she said.
The co-vice-chair of Mining Inquiry Needs Everyone’s Support (MINES), a group pushing for an inquiry into mining practices in Ontario, said in general, there's a laissez faire attitude toward regulation compliance in the province's mines.
“It's bad all over,” said Blasutti, a miner at another local mining company. “Things aren't done properly. It just seems there's not enough fear.”
Ministry of Labour inspectors should drop into mines unannounced, she said.
“We'll know a day ahead,” Blasutti said.
“We're told at the meeting that we're getting inspected tomorrow, and make sure this is done, and fix this. That's not right. As soon as that day is over, everything is back to the way it was.”
Many of the 41 orders at Stobie are related to an accumulation of water in various levels of the mine.
The company is currently facing charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act after the 2011 deaths of Jordan Fram and Jason Chenier at Stobie Mine.
Many of these charges also relate to the accumulation of water in the mine. A report put out last winter by Steelworkers Local 6500 said an excess of water was one of the factors that led to the run of muck which caused the miners' deaths.
“I know for the families it's really hard,” Blasutti said. “They think things are going to change, and they don't. That's why things keep happening over and over, because they don't change. And the proof is right there.”
She said in a recent letter to the editor that water enters mines both naturally and as a result of mining activities, and it's very costly and time-consuming to remove this water.
However, failing to remove the water can have deadly consequences, Blasutti said.
Many hours and dollars go into highly technical aspects of mining such as rock mechanics, “but the most basic and everyday task of adding water to an ore pass is still yet uncontrolled and unscientific,” she said.
Vale said in a statement Nov. 7 it is in the process of complying with the Ministry of Labour orders.