Labour & Employment Issues in the Mining Sector

March 31, 2020 | Lisa Goodfellow, Seann D. McAleese

Ontario has approximately 40 underground mines, with about 25,000 workers, located mostly in Northern Ontario. Minerals such as copper, nickel, gold and other precious metals, diamonds, salt and gypsum are extracted.  Ontario also has several thousand surface open pits, quarries, sand and gravel operations, with about 10,000 workers. Minerals such as gold, as well as material such as limestone, sand and gravel are extracted from them.

With over 35,000 employees, labour and employment issues are obviously of central importance to the mining sector, both in terms of health and safety and managing employees for optimal performance, safety and efficiency.  In 2018, 2,115 critical injuries were reported to the Ministry of Labour — 1,760 of those were industrial, 324 were in construction, and 31 were in the mining sector.

The top safety issues most recently identified by the Ministry of Labour in the mining sector are:

  • Conveyors
  • Traffic management
  • Lack of equipment, material and protective device maintenance
  • Electrical hazards
  • Lack of machine/equipment guarding
  • Improper access and egress
  • Risk assessment
  • Roads on surface
  • Improper use/maintenance of ladders/scaffolding
  • Administrative

In 2018-2019, Ontario Ministry of Labour inspectors conducted four inspection blitzes in the mining sector. The blitzes focused on reducing hazards related to conveyor guarding, mobile equipment and electrical/mechanical-mine hoist plants, the internal responsibility system and occupational disease prevention.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour is again conducting a mining sector safety blitz. The first phase, from December 16 to March 26, focuses on education, outreach and awareness.  It requires workplaces to conduct a self-audit related to emergency preparedness and mine rescue.  The employer’s self-audit will be reviewed for compliance by inspectors during the second phase, from February 1 to March 29.  Employers can access related Ministry’s materials and a presentation here: Emergency Preparedness Self-Audit Blitz.  The presentation reviews what to expect during inspector visits and what potential hazards they will be focusing on.  It also provides references to additional resources.

Miller Thomson has a long and successful record in assisting clients in relation to workplace health and safety and workers’ compensation/workplace safety and insurance. Our National Labour & Employment Group represents employers in protecting their interests in all types of litigation concerning health and safety and workers’ compensation issues. Our team also practices extensively in employment law, human rights, labour relations and environmental regulation across Canada–areas where Miller Thomson is a recognized leader.

Please feel free to contact our labour and employment group to assist you with health and safety compliance, as well as all other matters relating to management of the employment relationship.

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