MAC: Mines and Communities

Placer Dome agrees to fine in 2002 Musselwhite fatality

Published by MAC on 2001-05-01

Placer Dome agrees to fine in 2002 Musselwhite fatality

By Julio Gomes, The Chronicle-Journal

February 24, 2004

Placer Dome Ltd. will have to pay more than $400,000 in penalties in connection with a fatal accident nearly two years ago at its Musselwhite mine property.

The Vancouver-based multinational corporation pleaded guilty yesterday in provincial offences court to one charge under the Occupational Health and Safety Act stemming from an April 4, 2002 incident that claimed the life of Rock Lamirande.

Under a deal with the Ministry of Labour, the company agreed to a fine of $325,000. As well, justice of the peace Ronald Beck imposed a 25-per-cent victim surcharge, which amounts to $81,250.

The company will have 60 days to pay the fine.

Prosecutor Grainne McGrath read an agreed statement of facts into the record.

Lamirande, 46, of Spanish, Ont., was drilling a remote mucking "safety bay." Similar to an alcove, these deep recesses are cut into a tunnel wall to allow workers to step aside and let other workers or machinery pass.

On April 4, 2002, Lamirande was working alone with his block holer. The vehicle has a telescopic boom, at the end of which is a drill assembly which is used to make holes for blasting the rock. On this occasion, Lamirande had drilled three holes. He was standing outside the vehicle and remotely operating it when the drill assembly pinned him to the wall, McGrath explained.

The force of the impact was so great that he was found upright by co-workers. He was fatally injured.

The incident took place about 275 metres (900 feet) below the surface.

Placer Dome was convicted of one count of failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to the worker on the safe use of the block holer for drilling safety bay excavations.

Two other charges were withdrawn.

A company representative told court that following the incident, Placer Dome developed procedures specifically related to drilling remote mucking safety bays. In particular, the operator must now work in the vehicle's compartment, not on the outside.

Because it was a mining fatality, there will be an inquest into the accident. Regional coroner Dr. David Legge said he hopes the matter can be heard before year's end.

This is the second heavy fine Placer Dome has accepted recently for a work-related fatality at Musselwhite.

On Nov. 12, 2002, a total of $500,000 in fines were levied for a Nov. 22, 2000 incident involving two mechanics. They were working on a 30-tonne underground hauler when the tire and wheel assembly "failed catastrophically" and came off the vehicle in an "explosive manner."

The force of the blast threw the men three metres across the mechanical shop floor. Jerome Burns, 45, was pronounced dead at the scene. A 55-year-old worker suffered severe facial injuries and a compound fracture of the left arm.

The Musselwhite mine is 200 kilometres north of Pickle Lake and employs about 285 people.

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