Man dies at Wolverine mine

A 20-year-old man died from injuries at Yukon Zinc's Wolverine mine Monday. Paul Wentzell was struck by an unmanned motor vehicle while working underground around 9 a.m.

A 20-year-old man died from injuries at Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine mine Monday.

Paul Wentzell was struck by an unmanned motor vehicle while working underground around 9 a.m., according to RCMP.

Wentzell was from Daniel’s Harbour, Newfoundland, although he was living in Alberta at the time of the accident, reports the CBC.

He was flown from the mine, located 180 kilometres southeast of Ross River, to Whitehorse General Hospital where he succumbed to injuries. An autopsy is underway.

“Safety is a huge thing for us, and I just don’t know what the hell happened,” said Ed Yurkowski, president of Procon Mining and Tunnelling.

Wentzell worked for Procon, which handles Wolverine’s underground operations.

Underground work has been halted for several days while the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board investigates.

“We need the scene to be as preserved as possible,” said Kurt Dieckmann, the safety board’s director of occupational health and safety.

It will likely be several weeks before the safety board releases its findings, which could be accompanied by corrective orders, fines or prosecution.

This is Yukon’s second workplace death for 2009. On September 10, Jimmy Conklin, a longtime gold miner from Dawson City, died when his front-end loader flipped and he was pinned under the cab.

There have been 1,330 reported workplace injuries this year.

“Our injuries are actually down compared to last year,” said Dieckmann. “That’s the good news.

“But two fatalities is very bad. Two in a year is a lot. We have lots of years when we don’t have any.”

There was one workplace death in 2008, two in 2007, three in 2006 and one in 2005.

Wolverine remains set to become Yukon’s next operating hardrock mine, with the mine remaining “on track” to open by mid-2010, said chief operating officer Raymond Mah.

By then, the company predicts it will churn out 1,700 tonnes of ore – rich in zinc and silver – daily. The mine should employ about 160 workers and operate for at least 10 years.

The ore would be trucked to Stewart, British Columbia, then shipped to Asia.

Yukon Zinc was purchased in July of 2008 by two big Chinese firms. China is the world’s biggest producer of steel, and zinc is a crucial ingredient to prevent steel from corroding.

There are currently about 200 employees on site, said Mah. Some are working to burrow and reinforce more than two kilometres in tunnels, which run as deep as 85 metres underground. Others are building a mill and other parts of the mine’s industrial complex.

“This is a sad day for Yukon Zinc and Procon and on behalf of our management and staff we express our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of our deceased colleague,” Mah said in a release.

“Both Yukon Zinc and Procon place great emphasis on mine safety and will continue promoting safety programs to ensure that a culture and mindset of safety first is maintained throughout the company.”

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Then Old Crow MLA Darius Elias speak’s in the community centre in Old Crow in 2016. Elias died in Whitehorse on Feb. 17. (Maura Forrest/Yukon News file)
Condolences shared for former Vuntut Gwitchin MLA Darius Elias

Elias is remembered as a proud parent, hockey fan and politican

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

(Submitted)
History Hunter: Kwanlin Dün — a book of history, hardship and hope

Dǎ Kwǎndur Ghày Ghàkwadîndur: Our Story in Our Words is published by… Continue reading

(File photo)
RCMP arrest Saskatchewan murder suspect

Yukon RCMP have arrested a man suspected of attempted murder from outside… Continue reading

Most Read