Editorial: Mining’s no game

The first week of May was a deadly one for Canadian miners and mineral explorers.

• At First Nickel’s underground Lockerby nickel–copper mine southwest of Sudbury, Ont., seismic activity that apparently preceded a fall in ground claimed the lives of two contract drillers: Marc Methe, 34, and Norm Bissaillon, 49.

All underground activities at the mine were suspended on the day of the accident, May 6, and are still offline at press time.

Mark Isto, First Nickel’s vice-president of operations, told The Northern Miner that the accident is under investigation by the company and the Ontario Ministry of Labour, and said it would be inappropriate to comment until the initial investigation is complete.

“Unfortunately, we are not able to provide any additional information at this point,” Isto said.

The CBC quoted Mine Mill Local 598 Unifor president Anne Marie MacInnis as saying her union will be part of a joint investigation of the Lockerby accident despite the fact the workers were not members.

The two drillers worked for Taurus Drilling Services, which specializes in underground percussive drilling. The company, which has offices in Canada and the U.S., states on its website that it is skilled with many different types of underground bulk drilling and blasting techniques.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic accident that resulted in the deaths of two men, and we extend our heartfelt condolences to their families, friends and colleagues,” Thomas Boehlert, First Nickel’s president and CEO, said in a prepared statement.

The company noted that “Norm was a dedicated and experienced underground miner with over 20 years of experience — a good man and a family man, who loved to talk about his children of whom he was so proud. Marc had been with Taurus for about four years and was committed and enthusiastic about the trade. He was always positive and meticulous about everything he did.  These individuals will be sorely missed by all of us at First Nickel and Taurus.”

First Nickel acquired the Lockerby mine from Falconbridge in June 2005.

Last year the mine produced 12.9 million lb. nickel and 7.6 million lb. copper.

The Lockerby fatalities follow Paul Rochette’s death last month at Vale’s Copper Cliff smelter in Sudbury. The 36-year-old died of severe head trauma in an area of the smelter where a machine crushes hardened metal.

In June 2011 Jordan Fram, 26, and Jason Chenier, 35, were killed in a 350-tonne muck slide at Vale’s Stobie mine in Sudbury. A few months later, development miner Stephen Perry, 47, was killed at Vale’s Coleman mine in Sudbury.

Those three deaths in 2011 led to an ongoing provincial review of mine safety, led by George Gritziotis, chief prevention officer for the Province of Ontario.

• In the high Andes of northeastern Colombia on May 3, a plane belonging to Regina-based Oracle Geoscience International crashed, claiming the lives of two Canadians: Oracle co-founder Peter Moore and pilot Neville Ribeiro.

The firm had been carrying out an aerial magnetic and radiometric survey, 75 km south of Bucaramanga.

A graduate of the Haileybury School of Mines and a Blind River native, Moore started his career at Dighem Surveys in 1987 and worked in the high Arctic, as well as in more than 15 countries.

According to an Associated Press report, Oracle’s crashed twin-engine Piper PA-31 Navajo was discovered two days later from the air, upside down in a remote site with poor visibility. The cause of the crash is not yet known.

A report in the Sault Star notes that the plane had an emergency locator transmitter that emitted a signal to the Joint Rescue and Cooordination Centre in Halifax and the Colombian equivalent agency, which set off a search and rescue operation led by the Colombian air force.



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