Ontario has about 40 underground mines, with about 25,000 workers. Minerals such as copper, nickel, gold and other precious metals, diamonds, salt and gypsum are extracted from these underground mines, most of which are located in Northern Ontario.

Ontario also has several thousand surface mines, with about 20,000 workers. Minerals such as gold, palladium, platinum, nickel, copper, as well as material such as limestone, sand and gravel, are extracted from these surface mines.

The ministry’s mining program continues to focus on areas where worker safety may be compromised and to work with stakeholders to ensure that all workplaces are compliant with current regulatory requirements. In 2015-16, mining inspectors were on the lookout for issues related to ground control, water management in underground mines, remote control equipment and explosives.

Mining blitzes

Mobile equipment traffic control measures: underground and surface mines blitz

Between 2000 and 2014, 12 workers died in Ontario mines as a result of incidents, including collisions involving mobile vehicles and equipment.

During this two-month blitz (July and August 2015), mining inspectors visited 85 underground and surface mines across the province. They checked for hazards involving motor vehicles and mobile equipment that could result in worker injury or death, and issued orders for any violations.

Table 29: Mobile equipment traffic control measures: underground and surface mines blitz stats
Program activitiesNumber
Field visits99
Workplaces visited85
Orders and requirements issued274
Stop work orders21
Orders and requirements per workplace visited3.2
Orders and requirements per field visit2.8

Resources

Modular training in underground and surface mines blitz

Mine workers risk serious injuries or even death if they are not properly trained for their job and unable to recognize hazards at their workplace. Employers must ensure that mine workers complete the appropriate training module(s) for the work they perform, and that their completed training is accredited by the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD).

During a two-month province-wide blitz campaign (October and November 2015), mining inspectors focused on the training requirements for mine workers. They checked whether workers in surface and underground mines had completed the appropriate training modules and been accredited. More than ten per cent (23) of the total orders issued involved failure to meet MAESD training requirements. These results reinforce the need to focus on compliance with training requirements in the Occupational Health and Safety Act and in section 11 of Regulation 854 when inspecting underground and surface mines.

Table 30: Modular training in underground and surface mines blitz stats
Program activitiesNumber
Field visits78
Workplaces visited67
Orders and requirements issued192
Stop work orders16
Orders and requirements per workplace visited2.87
Orders and requirements per field visit2.46

Resources

Occupational disease: underground and surface plants blitz

Workers in underground and surface mines may be at risk of occupational disease due to exposure to physical, chemical or biological hazards. These exposures, which can be cumulative over many years of work, can lead to serious injuries, long-term health effects and even death. Some diseases are diagnosed years after a worker’s exposure to a harmful agent. Between 2005 and 2014, 184 workers in Ontario’s mining sector died from occupational disease.

Employers are required to protect workers from hazards that can lead to occupational disease, and must balance the need for quality work with the need to protect workers from long-term health effects and/or injury.

For this two-month blitz (February and March 2016), inspectors, hygienists, ergonomists and engineers visited 39 mines and mining plants across Ontario. The blitz raised awareness of known workplace hazards and promoted compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.

Table 31: Occupational disease: underground and surface plants blitz stats
Program activitiesNumber
Field visits59
Workplaces visited39
Orders and requirements issued149
Stop work orders9
Orders and requirements per workplace visited3.8
Orders and requirements per field visit2.5

Resources

Personally, I have found that due to Safe At Work Ontario many workers and employers have increased their health and safety knowledge and are more aware of the consequences of not complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Going forward, we need to continue to promote the internal responsibility system and appropriate enforcement to ensure workplaces comply.

Jim Milne
Inspector, Mining Health and Safety Program

Provincial mining enforcement initiatives

Ground control initiative

The collapse of excavated rock or stockpiled material in underground and surface mines can cause health and safety hazards for workers. These hazards can result in serious injuries and even death.

In 2015-16, the Ministry of Labour’s Mining Health and Safety Program continued to focus on underground mines, including ground support quality control and ground instability record keeping. Inspectors checked that mines had developed a ground support quality control program that covers all types of ground support in use at the mine and meets the requirements for mine design. The Ministry of Labour will continue to focus on enforcement activities in underground mines, including those related to ground control hazards.

Resources

Water management: underground mines initiative

Water management has been identified as a serious underground mining hazard. When water accumulates in a mine, workers face health and safety risks that can result in serious injuries and even death.

In its 2015-16 Sector Plan, the mining program made water management in underground mines a priority. Inspectors focused on ensuring employers complied with the health and safety requirements related to:

  • the accumulation of water in the workplace
  • proper barricades in place to warn workers of hazards
  • documentation of these hazards in the supervisor’s log book.

Resources

Remote controlled equipment initiative

Workers face health and safety risks from hazards associated with remote controlled equipment. They can be seriously injured or killed if proper methods and procedures are not used when operating this type of equipment.

Because of the serious nature of this hazard, remote controlled equipment was a provincial initiative in 2015-16 and is now one of the main focuses of the September and October 2016-17 province-wide workplace inspection blitz on Safe Material Tramming for Underground and Surface Mines.

“Remote controlled” refers to equipment where a person remotely operates equipment with joy stick controls.

Resources

Explosives initiative

In response to the hazards associated with explosives, the Mining Health and Safety Program launched a provincial explosives enforcement initiative in 2015-16.

Inspectors will continue to ensure workers handling explosives are accredited in the modules related to the tasks they are performing. To protect the public, inspectors will also ensure that stored explosives can only be accessed by authorized workers and used only for their intended purpose.

Resources

Regional mining enforcement initiatives

Eastern Region

Focused compliance: failure to notify Ministry of Labour of crushing activities at surface mining operations initiative

Until the end of December 2015, mining inspectors focused on ensuring compliance by projects with large aggregate demands, such as road/highway projects, and significant concrete and asphalt demands, such as concrete and asphalt batch plants. At each project, inspectors determined the aggregate source(s) with a view to ensuring they met regulatory requirements.

Inspectors also sought out and addressed other unreported aggregate operations encountered when working in their assigned areas.

The most frequently issued orders were for the failure on the part of employers to:

  • provide conveyor machine guarding and pull cords
  • maintain equipment in good condition
  • operate electrical equipment in accordance with good electrical practices.
Table 32: Failure to notify Ministry of Labour of crushing activities at surface mining operations stats (Eastern Region)
Program activitiesNumber
Field visits59
Workplaces visited46
Orders and requirements issued160
Stop work orders11
Orders and requirements per workplace visited3.5
Orders and requirements per field visit2.7

Northern Region

Point-in-time (PIT) inspections initiative

In 2015-16, mining inspectors in the Northern Region conducted point-in-time inspections in four underground mining workplaces.

Point-in-time inspections are full detailed inspections: a complete top-to-bottom inspection of the working areas of the entire mine conducted over consecutive days. The process involved a team of inspectors, engineers and support staff. It started with a review of administrative policies and procedures, followed by underground inspections. These inspections provided a holistic picture or snapshot of the employer’s health and safety program and the effectiveness of their Internal Responsibility System (IRS).

During this initiative, inspectors issued a total of 301 orders – or 13% of the total orders written in the mining program for the year. 24% of the orders were for electrical issues. This initiative also addressed water management issues.

Some of the mines made an effort to prepare for the inspection while others chose not to do anything different.

Table 33: Point in time inspections initiative stats (Northern Region)
Program activitiesNumber
Field visits47
Workplaces visited4
Orders and requirements issued301
Stop work orders13
Orders and requirements per workplace visited75.3
Orders and requirements per field visit6.4

JHSC audit of surface and underground mines initiative

The Northern Region also completed a Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) audit in three of the four underground mines that received point-in-time inspections. The goal was to evaluate the effectiveness of the Internal Responsibility System.

Inspectors reviewed minutes from the meetings of the Joint Health and Safety Committee and worked with employee and employer representatives to identify ways to improve the Internal Responsibility System. Inspectors also provided information about Workplace Safety North (WSN) programs that could assist the mines with training and resources.

Table 34: JHSC audit of surface and underground mines initiative stats (Northern Region)
Program activitiesNumber
Field visits4
Workplaces visited3
Orders and requirements issued28
Stop work orders2
Orders and requirements per workplace visited9.3
Orders and requirements per field visit7.0