The Silvertip mine is located just south of the Yukon/B.C. border about 90 kilometres southwest of Watson Lake, seen here in satellite imagery from Google. (Google Maps)

JDS Silver and two former workers in legal spat over dismissal

Ex-employees claim wrongful firing, but company says their actions led to dangerous situation at northern B.C. mine

Two former employees of the Silvertip Mine near Watson Lake have filed lawsuits against JDS Silver Inc. and JDS Energy and Mining Inc., claiming they were wrongfully fired after a “safety-related incident” at the mine in April.

In separate civil claims filed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia on May 30, 2017, Aaron Swerhun and Russell Schram, who describe themselves as “experienced miners,” both claim they were fired on April 26, 2017, after an “incident” at the mine two days earlier.

Swerhun and Schram claim JDS accused them of “serious misconduct, including unsafe conduct” when firing them, an allegation they both deny. The lawsuits claim JDS “made the allegations without undertaking a proper investigation” and fired the two workers “in part to shift responsibility for the incident from themselves” to the workers.

The lawsuits say the terminations have caused “mental distress and a loss of job opportunities in (the) industry” for both men, and both are seeking general damages from JDS for breaching termination provisions in its employment contract, aggravated damages and costs, among other things.

In its responses to the claims filed June 30, the company denies Swerhun and Schram’s allegations, writing that they were fired for their involvement in a blast that was set off on April 24 while a haul truck driver was underground in the blast area. JDS claims the workers’ failure to adhere to safety rules resulted in dangerous situation where a haul truck driver was in the mine while a blast went off.

Swerhun was the blast guard and Schram was the blaster at the time of the “dangerous occurrence,” according to the JDS responses. Swerhun failed to ensure the gate to one of the entrances to the mine was closed, remain at the entrance after the final sweep to ensure no one else entered the mine and ensure that no one entered the blast area between the final sweep and the clearance to blast, JDS claimed.

Meanwhile, Schram failed to ensure the entrance gate was closed, that someone was guarding the entrance between the final sweep and blast and that no one entered the blast area between the final sweep and clearance to proceed with the blast, the response says.

The “breaches… placed the Plaintiff and his co-workers at risk and resulted in a blast occurring while a haul truck driver was underground in the mine,” JDS wrote in both responses.

Both Swerhun and Schram were well aware of the rules and other safety regulations in place, the response says, and as a result, both were justly fired and should not be awarded any damages.

According to the JDS Silver website, the Silvertip Mine is located in northern British Columbia about 16 kilometres south of the Yukon border and 90 kilometres southwest of Watson Lake.

None of the allegations have been proven in court yet.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com