Wolverine mine companies enter plea

By telephone, lawyers for Procon Mining Inc., Procon Mining and Tunnelling, and Yukon Zinc Corp. pleaded not guilty to all charges against them in a Yukon courtroom Tuesday.

By telephone, lawyers for Procon Mining Inc., Procon Mining and Tunnelling, and Yukon Zinc Corp. pleaded not guilty to all charges against them in a Yukon courtroom Tuesday.

The companies are facing a number of charges under the territory’s Occupational Health and Safety Act in relation to the 2010 death of 25-year-old William Fisher.

Fisher was pronounced dead when rescue workers finally found him, 12 hours after the tunnel he was working in had caved in around him.

Two men he was working with were knocked down by the tunnel’s rubble that trapped Fisher. One was injured.

The mine, 180 kilometres southeast of Ross River, temporarily suspended work after the incident and the Yukon Workers’ Compensation, Health and Safety Board sent in investigators.

The preliminary investigation found that the caved-in portion of the mine had been widened to 10 metres, but only had adequate supports for a tunnel half that size.

It found the rock to be wet, loose and crumbly, making it prone to collapses.

In February 2012, the companies’ lawyers asked the court to quash the charges, saying they were too vague to be able to defend themselves against.

Procon’s lawyers argued that if the charges couldn’t be quashed, they should be changed to include more detail.

In early March, Deputy Judge Deborah Livingstone ruled that the charges should stand.

Fisher was the second worker to die at the Wolverine mine in two years. In 2009, 20-year-old Paul Wentzell died after the Toyota Land Cruiser he had parked and walked in front of started to roll and hit him.

Procon was found guilty of two occupational health and safety charges in Wentzell’s death.

The company failed to ensure its worker demonstrated competence in operating equipment and that its mobile equipment was maintained in safe operating condition, Judge John Faulkner ruled in October 2011.

Procon was fined nearly $100,000.

When Fisher died, more than 200 people were working at the Wolverine mine, which had more than two kilometres of tunnels, some of which were more than 85 metres underground.

The mine is owned by Yukon Zinc. Procon is the main contractor.

After major construction in 2009 and 2010, which included reinforcing sections of tunnels, Yukon Zinc announced it was ramping up production to 1,700 tonnes of ore per day.

The trial for the charges related to Fisher’s death is scheduled to begin Nov. 13.

(Roxanne Stasyszyn)

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