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BACKGROUNDER

Underground Mining Blitz

  • Issued: October 29, 2012
  • Content last reviewed: October 2012
  • See also: Mining | Bulletin

Inspectors will visit underground mines this fall, as part of the McGuinty government's Safe At Work Ontario strategy.

In November and December, Ministry of Labour mining inspectors will check on hazards involving two specific types of systems used to transfer ore inside underground mines. The systems are the:

  • "Ore pass" (vertical or inclined passage used for the downward transfer of ore).
  • "Loading pocket" (chamber excavated in the rock at the base of an ore pass where rock is stored).

These two systems are the most hazardous of any ore transfer system.

Inspectors will check that employers, supervisors and workers are carrying out their duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations for Mines and Mining Plants and may take enforcement action, as appropriate, in response to any violations.

The number of serious incidents has increased in the last few years. These incidents can potentially have serious health and safety consequences for workers, including injuries leading to amputation and death.

According to Ministry of Labour data, between 2002 and 2011 there were:

  • 56 incidents of wet dangerous material moving uncontrollably through ore transfer points in mines. Miners were working close by in 21 of those incidents.
  • 44 incidents of wet dangerous material free falling from loading pockets down mine shafts.

Examples of ore transfer system hazards in underground mines include:

  • Accumulation of water caused by broken water lines, spring runoff, poorly designed and maintained water drainage systems and other hazards.
  • Uncontrolled flow of blasted rock due to the collapse, shifting or movement of material in chutes or material storage areas.
  • Excessive use of explosives used to release material stuck in ore transfer systems.
  • Lack of required written procedures to protect workers. This can include a lack of communicating known hazards, lack of identifying unsafe areas, lack of warning signs and any additional information needed to protect workers.

Priorities

Inspectors will focus on the following key priorities:

Material transfer systems: Inspectors will check for the presence, adequacy and use of procedures to protect workers from possible hazards involving the withdrawal, collapse, shifting or movement of bulk material such as rock or ore.

Water control: Inspectors will check the mine is free of accumulated water. This includes checking that drainage systems are being maintained to ensure the water hazards are controlled and excess water is removed from the mine.

Equipment: Inspectors will check that chutes, transfer points, loading pockets and control gates used to transfer blasted rock in underground mines are well designed and maintained in good condition.

Communication: Inspectors will check that warning signs and barriers are in place to protect workers around chutes and transfer areas. Workers at potential risk of being engulfed by moving rock during the transfer of material must be warned, as required by the Regulation for Mines and Mining Plants.

Matt Blajer, Communications Branch, 416-326-7405

ontario.ca/labour-news
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