The Ontario government is investing nearly C$8 million to support the province’s Mine Rescue Program and help protect workers in an emergency. Part of the 2021 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy, this increased funding will promote workplace safety by strengthening rescue capacity at mine sites and addressing gaps in the current rescue program for surface mines.
Details were announced by Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, at Workplace Safety North’s 2021 Virtual Mining Health and Safety Conference. “Mining has been the backbone of Northern Ontario’s economy for generations and we owe it to workers to make sure they come home safely to their families every night,” said McNaughton. “As more mining sites come into operation, this funding will ensure we can provide the resources and training needed so more brave women and men can re-enter mines in emergencies and save lives.”
Headquartered in Sudbury, the Ontario Mine Rescue Program supports eight rescue stations across the province and ensures they have appropriate emergency response capabilities. The program also delivers training to volunteer first responders, certifies rescue equipment and provides advice during mine emergencies. The additional funding will allow the Mine Rescue Program to increase training hours for volunteers and develop specialised programs to better support rescue capacity for all surface mines and mining plants, including at newly expanded and newly opened sites.
“Ontario is home to a world-class mining sector, known for its safe and responsible mining practices,” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines. “Our mining industry operates according to the highest standards and is subject to the strictest rules and laws. By strengthening our mine rescue capacity, we are sending a strong signal to the world that Ontario is a safe and ideal jurisdiction for mining activity.”
In addition, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development will continue to visit surface and underground mines to check for hazards that could lead to injuries and illness. This includes inspections to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Over the past year, Ontario’s health and safety inspectors have conducted more than 2,250 field visits in the mining sector, issuing more than 5,100 orders and requirements during those visits.
Ontario Mine Rescue is administered by Workplace Safety North, a designated, not-for-profit safe work association founded in 1929 following a fire at Hollinger Mine that claimed the lives of 39 miners. There are presently over 900 volunteers actively certified by the program and ready to respond in the province. There are currently 40 active mining operations in Ontario, most of which are located in Northern Ontario. Mining in Ontario supports 26,000 direct jobs, and approximately 45,000 indirect jobs associated with mineral processing and mining supply and services. In 2019, Ontario’s mining industry produced more than C$10 billion worth of minerals, accounting for 22% of Canada’s total production.