Tunnel collapse kills Wolverine mine worker

A tunnel collapse at the Wolverine mine killed a man and injured another early Sunday morning. William Fisher, a 25-year-old Ontario man, is the second fatality at the Yukon Zinc-owned mine, which is located 180 kilometres southeast of Ross River. The mine is supposed to begin production in June.

A tunnel collapse at the Wolverine mine killed a man and injured another early Sunday morning.

William Fisher, a 25-year-old Ontario man, is the second fatality at the Yukon Zinc-owned mine, which is located 180 kilometres southeast of Ross River. The mine is supposed to begin production in June.

The cave in happened at 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning. The debris knocked down two men and trapped the third.

The mine’s emergency response team worked throughout the morning to determine how many people were caught in the disaster, said Raymond Mah, the mine’s chief operating officer.

At 3 p.m. rescue teams located Fisher, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

The cause of the collapse has not been determined.

However, the rock mined at Wolverine is far from stable. Yukon Zinc has had to coat tunnels with mesh-strengthened concrete and fire five-metre-long spikes into the ceiling to stabilize its shafts. During a tour last May, a geologist pulled a hunk of rock from the wall. “This is a bad sign,” she said, adding, “And that’s some of our better rock.”

All activity at the site has been suspended.

The Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board sent a representative to the mine on Sunday and were following up it today with a team of three people, including the director of occupational health and safety Kurt Dieckmann, said Mark Hill, the board’s head of communication.

The injured worker was medevaced to Watson Lake on Sunday and treated for non-life-threatening injuries. It wasn’t clear if they were going to be taken to another hospital, said Hill.

Fisher is first workplace death in the Yukon this year. There were two deaths in 2009, including the loss of another Wolverine worker, 20-year-old Paul Wentzell. There was one workplace death in 2008, two in 2007, three in 2006 and one in 2005.

More than 200 people work at the site, which is expected to produce around 1,700 tonnes of ore rich in zinc, silver, copper and lead each day when construction is completed this summer.

The mine has more than two kilometers of tunnels and some are more than 85 meters underground.

Yukon Zinc is owned by two Chinese firms, Jinduicheng Molybdenum Group Co. Ltd. and Northwest Nonferrous International Investment Company Ltd.

Contact James Munson at jamesm@yukon-news.com.