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Impala Canada's Lac Des Iles mine located North of Thunder Bay (Adam Riley / Acadia Broadcasting)

2020 worker death results in fines

By Adam Riley Nov 20, 2023 | 9:37 AM

$430K in fines have been issued against two companies following a fatality in 2020 at the Lac Des Iles mine north of Thunder Bay.

It happened May 27th of that year a worker was killed when muck, a combination of blasted ore saturated with concrete and water, dropped suddenly in an ore pass and overwhelmed the barriers.

Court heard the mine’s owners Impala Canada Ltd. had retained the services of SCR Mines Technology Inc. to repair an ore pass, which involved working down the pass scaling the walls and installing ground support, before applying concrete sprayed with water at a high speed, called shotcrete.

Controls for the pass had been locked out by an Impala employee prior to SCR taking control of the ore pass.

A guillotine gate which controls the flow of the muck would be used to fill the pass with muck to provide workers with a stable work platform where they would stand on it, while tied off to a pneumatic elevator in the pass called an Alimak.

The muck would be cleared following the completion of each six foot section and repeated until the ore pass was fully repaired.

In the days leading up to the incident, employees noticed an unusual amount of shotcrete rebounding off of the walls and landing on the muck floor.

As well the water would disappear when the much was drawn down and cleared from the ore pass.

On May 27, SCR began to draw down muck to expose the next section of the ore pass wall, however there was little change in the muck pile, which may have indicated a hang up, but workers at the pass saw the muck draw down.

They determined a further draw down was required to fully expose the next section of the wall.

One worker entered the loading pocket platform at the bottom of the pass to remove the lockout locks which would allow the additional muck to be evacuated.

They communicated with their colleagues at the top of the pass via the radio, advising them of trouble getting the muck to come down the ore pass.

This is where tragedy struck when the muck suddenly dropped, it had a large saturation of shotcrete in it which overwhelmed the protective barriers at the base of the pass and fatally injured the worker.

At the time of the incident there was an underground water management plan in place to protect against inflows and accumulations, however that plan only accounted for the passes being dry and did not include procedures to guard against the addition and accumulation of water in the ore passes.

A guilty plea was issued in Provincial Offences court in Thunder Bay and on October 13th of this year Impala Canada Ltd. was fined $300K, while SCR Mines Technology Inc. was fined $130K.

The court also imposed a 25 percent victim fine surcharge.