An improperly installed underground access door is believed to be the cause of the 2021 death of a contractor at the Hemlo Gold Mine near Marathon.
The operators of the mine, Barrick Gold and its William Operating Corp., entered a guilty plea in a Marathon provincial offences court Nov. 15 and were fined $300,000. The Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development released the news Dec. 2.
Along with the hefty $300,000 fine, Justice of the Peace Marcel Donio also imposed a 25 per cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act.
The contractor who was died on the evening of July 14, 2021 was Troy Cameron, 48, of Marathon. The mine is 40 kilometres east of Marathon.
The fatality occurred in an area known as the automation zone, where driverless autonomous trucks operate. Personnel are normally excluded from the area.
Power to the underground operation had been restored following a day-long maintenance shutdown to service underground electrical substations.
The contractor was involved in the process of clearing and preparing the automation zone for use by the night shift. Part of those duties are to ensure there are no personnel or equipment in the area along with securing all safety gates prior to the startup of autonomous truck operations.
The contractor received a call that one of the automatic gates in the area needed to be reset and he had proceeded to reset it. The location to reset the gate is near what’s known as the F-belt access doors.
The ministry said there were no witnesses to the incident but it’s believed the contractor was fatally injured while attempting to go through these doors.
A subsequent accident investigation determined that air lines to the solenoid that operates the switch controlling the opening and closing of the access doors were reversed relative to other doors in the mines.
Other doors in the mines were designed to default to an open position following a power outage to allow easier and faster evacuation of workers in an emergency situation.
The F-belt access doors functioned in reverse of this, defaulting to a closed position following a power outage in these circumstances.
The court decided that the mining company, failed as an employer, under section 25(1) of the Ontario Health and Safety Act, of ensuring the doors controls were installed and maintained as designed.