Blitz targets ground stability in Ontario mines

Ontario will target hazards that could lead to the collapse of excavated rock in underground and surface mines during a province-wide blitz this fall.
"Ground control continues to be a key safety issue at Ontario mines," said George Gritziotis, Chief Prevention Officer.

Since 1991, 18 workers have died in underground and surface mines as a result of falls of ground or rockbursts.

In October and November, mining inspectors and engineers will check that the mines have proper controls and measures in place to prevent the collapse of “ground", or rock, as well as to prevent “rockbursts” which are expulsions of rock from mine roofs and walls.

They will target areas where mining work is taking place to extend tunnels known as “drifts” in underground mines and where mounds of mined material are stockpiled in open pit / surface mines.

The inspectors will focus on:

• how excavations are designed, including how they will be dug out and structurally supported in underground and surface mines
• whether professional engineers have verified that excavations in areas where there is no ground support are safe and will not endanger workers
• whether stockpiles of loose material are being maintained at a safe angle of “repose” (natural slope) in surface mines
• whether supervisors have examined the face for any possible hazards in surface mines.

This is the second year in a row the ministry has targeted ground stability at Ontario mines. During the 2013 blitz, ministry inspectors conducted 53 visits to 31 underground mines. They issued 154 orders under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, including 23 stop work orders.

The province is also conducting a comprehensive mining safety review to further the health and safety of mine workers.