Mining company, employees charged
A Yukon mining company and two of its supervisors are facing a mountain of charges
A Yukon mining company and two of its supervisors are facing a mountain of charges alleging unsafe work practices at a property in the Wheaton Valley area.
Tagish Lake Gold Corp. and supervisors Bill Lewkoski and Michael Greasley are facing a total of 42 charges under the territory’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The company faces 12 charges. They include two counts of failing to comply with a stop work order last year and three counts of failing to ensure workers were made aware of the hazards of working with equipment.
The stop work orders, dated July 20, 2011, related to a scissor lift and scoop tram, territorial court documents state.
Neither the Yukon’s Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board nor New Pacific Metals, the Vancouver-based company which purchased Tagish Lake Gold in December 2010, are commenting on the case nor providing any details.
According to the documents filed earlier this month, all 12 charges laid against the company, as well as the 15 charges each for the two supervisors, are related to events alleged to have taken place between July 19, 2011 and Sept. 4, 2011.
The company, which is charged as an employer under the legislation, is accused of failing to ensure that its equipment — in this case a scoop tram — was maintained in a safe operating condition with functioning fire suppression equipment.
The documents also claim the company failed to ensure the workers using that scoop tram were “protected against falling, flying or intruding objects or material by means of suitable cabs, screens, grills, shurds, deflectors, guards or structures.”
Charges were also laid in relation to the safety of the property itself.
By road, the Tagish Lake Gold-Silver project is located 80 kilometres south of Whitehorse.
The company website says the site consists of 1,512 mineral claims covering about 250 square kilometres.
Tagish Lake Gold Corp. is charged with “failing to provide a shoulder barrier or berm” on the access road road to the Chieftain Mountain exploration drill program.
That same road did not have an emergency runaway lane nor retardation barriers, the charges claim.
The company is also accused of failing to post two inspection reports, dated July 21, 2011 and Aug. 10, 2011, in a place that is likely to come to the attention of workers.
It is also charged with removing a notice which was affixed by a safety officer to the scoop tram on Aug.10, 2011 without authorization.
Supervisors Lewkoski, from Kirkland Lake, Ont., and Greasley, from Estevan, Sask., are facing identical 15 charges.
Like the company, the two supervisors are charged with two counts of failing to comply with the two stop work orders from July 2011.
They also face similar charges related to protecting employees from falling, flying or intruding objects as well as charges regarding the safety of the access road to the Chieftain Mountain exploration drill program.
Both Lewkoski and Greasley are charged with three counts of failing to provide proper instruction to workers to ensure that their work was performed without undue risk.
Those three charges relate to the operation of the scissor lift, the scoop tram, and a Dux 17-ton truck, the documents say.
The same pieces of equipment are named in three additional charges claiming the two supervisors failed to “advise workers of the existence of any potential or actual danger to the health or safety of the workers of which the supervisor was aware.”
The pair is also charged with failing to post the two inspection reports and removing the notice which was affixed by a safety officer to the scoop tram.
According to the territory’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, fines for a first offence can be as high as $200,000 and up to $350,000 for a second or subsequent offence. Jail time is also listed as a possibility.
Last September — not long after these offences are alleged to have taken place — the company was in the news denying it had been ordered to shut down its underground exploration program.
At the time, Peter Torn, a spokesperson for New Pacific Metals Corp., said the company decided to stop its underground program as a result of issues raised by the health and safety board, but would not discuss the details.
The company decided it was best to suspend the underground drilling until it could add to its on-site management team, he said at the time.
Torn said the company plans to restart drilling underground in late 2012, after it renews its exploration permit.
Calls to New Pacific Metals were not returned before for this afternoon’s press time.
By ASHLEY JOANNOU