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Vol. 75/No. 43      November 28, 2011

Canada: 3rd miner killed
in Vale nickel mines
MONTREAL—In the last five months, three miners have been killed in Canadian nickel mines owned by Vale.

Greg Leason, 51, died October 19 from injuries received 12 days earlier at Vale’s nickel mine in Thompson, Manitoba. Leason was operating a scooptram at the 3,500 foot level of the T-3 underground mine October 7. The ore moving machine fell more than 100 feet to the level below while Leason was inside.

Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health officials are investigating his death. A joint investigation is also being conducted by United Steelworkers Local 6166 and Vale officials. Leason had worked in the mine for 23 years.

On June 8 two other Vale miners, Jordan Fram, 26, and Jason Chenier, 35, died under tons of broken rock at the 3,000 foot level of Vale’s Stobie nickel mine near Sudbury, Ontario. In this case, USW Local 6500 decided to conduct its own investigation.

According to Local 6500 officials, the company impeded the union investigation by ordering two of five union committee members back to work on the pretext that they were taking too long.

“We don’t have a time frame. What we are concentrating on is to find out the result, find out what happened that killed two of our members,” Local 6500 President Rick Bertrand told the Sudbury Star. It has taken months to clear the site, finally allowing investigators access to the area.

“Some of our team are still investigating the site where our two brothers were killed,” Bertrand told the Militant.

Local 6500 filed a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board, which in mid-October ordered Vale to return the miners to the investigation.

Vale, based in Brazil, is the second largest mining company in the world, operating in 38 countries with more than 126,000 employees and contract workers. So far this year, along with the deaths in Sudbury and Thompson, nine Vale workers have died on the job, including one in Colombia, three in Brazil and one in Guinea.

Meanwhile, the case of eight workers framed up and fired last year by Vale for allegedly threatening scabs and company-hired guards is finally scheduled to be taken up by the Ontario Labour Relations Board December 8. The workers were fired during a one-year strike by 3,000 members of USW Local 6500 in Sudbury that ended in July 2010.

Katy LeRougetel contributed to this article.
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