Ontario’s mine safety record has improved dramatically over the last 50 years.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, the total fatalities have decreased from 152 in the 1970s to 45 in the period from 2000 to 2014, for reasons including increased safety training for workers and supervisors as well as regulatory and cultural changes throughout the industry.
In the same time period, the number of fatalities caused by falls of ground, one of the top causes of total fatalities, decreased from 33 in the 1970’s to 8 in 2000-2014. According to data from Workplace Safety North, this improvement outpaced the overall decline in the total fatalities: from 1977-1986 falls of rock accounted for about 25% of fatalities, and they steadily decreased to 8% of total fatalities in 2007-2011.
This decline is demonstrated in the graph below from Workplace Safety North:
The cause for the large drop in fall-of-ground fatalities can be attributed to a variety of factors including increased regulation, better engineering and ground support practices, and the buildup of a stronger culture of safety in mines.
The experience in other parts of the hard rock mining world
Other mining jurisdictions have had less success in preventing fall-of-ground fatalities. For example, one southern jurisdiction saw 870 fatalities from 2000 to 2014. Approximately 30% of these were due to falls of ground, which translates to approximately 260 fall-of-ground fatalities over that time period.
Although there are many factors that contribute to the differences in fall-of-ground fatalities between mining regions, one of the significant factors is the ground support practices typically used. Compared to Ontario, it is much more common in some regions for miners to work under ground that has not been systematically bolted and screened. Other ground support methods such as timber sets and shotcrete are often used, but systematic bolting is not always done and as such, workers are not always under supported ground.
With the first MacLean bolter entering the market in 1984, and over 60 MacLean Bolters operating in Ontario by the end of the 1990s, we contend that “the MacLean” has played an important role in Ontario’s improved fall-of-ground safety over these years. And we believe the Ontario experience could be replicated around the world with the appropriate training program and safety culture backdrop.
Over 400 bolters built to date means literally millions of bolts installed in Canadian and international underground mining operations, to make the extraction of ore safer for miners. This legacy is one we continue to evolve with the advent of face bolting and emissions-free battery electric drive that will fuel the next wave of safety and productivity improvements in mining.