Home > News > Ontario Government...

Ontario Government Announces Improvements to Mining Health and Safety

Apr 12, 2023

The Ontario Minister of Labour, Monte McNaughton and Mines Minister George Pirie, announced measures to improve mine health and safety including new restrictions on diesel exhaust and improved ventilation requirement in mines to protect Ontario’s 29,000 mine.

The changes announced in Sudbury Ontario are designed to prevent lung cancer in miners caused by inhaling harmful diesel and to reduce mining accidents. Long-term exposure to diesel exhaust can be a significant cause of lung cancer in miners.

“Miners have been the backbone of Ontario’s economy for generations, and we owe it to them and their families to do more to keep them safe,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. “These everyday heroes are critical to the future of our great province and I’m proud that our changes today will save lives.”

In addition, the government is making changes to allow for the use of track-mounted robots in mines to increase safety. These specialized machines with a high-definition camera will be controlled by an operator to identify loose rocks, misfired explosives and other safety hazards, while keeping workers out of danger.

“I come from a proud mining family and keeping workers safe has always been a top priority, but we can do better,” said George Pirie, Minister of Mines. “As our government helps companies build more mines, we need to attract the best and brightest to work in this exciting sector. These changes send the message that you can find safe, rewarding careers in Ontario’s mining industry.”

These amendments respond to calls from unions for a reduction of how much diesel particulate miners can be exposed to underground and follow recommendations from the Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review and recent coroner’s inquests.

The changes are part of  the government’s Working for Workers Act, 2023, which proposes new health and safety protections for workers, including fines for withholding passports, better protections for remote workers during mass terminations, and job-protected leave for military reservists. They also build upon recent regulatory amendments to require women’s-only washrooms on construction sites and to expand cancer coverage for firefighters.

"Today is a good day for Steelworkers and all other workers in mining who have been fighting for such a long time to make the underground air in their workplaces less dangerous,” said  Myles Sullivan Director, USW District 6. 

“The Minister’s announcement is important for improving workplace safety because there is a level of risk that these workers face every time they start a shift, and anytime we can lower that risk, it’s a good thing, “ Sullivan added. “We also recognize that while the occupational exposure limit for diesel particulate in Ontario is being significantly lowered today, it is not down to the level that Steelworkers have been calling for, at 20 µg/m³. It is our hope and expectation that the province will get there in the very near future."

The regulatory amendments will come into force on July 1, 2023, and others in effect on September 1, 2023, to allow employers time to comply. Ontario’s allowable level of exposure to harmful substances from diesel exhaust in underground mines will now be the most protective in North America.

Effective September 1, 2023, the new exposure limit will be a time-weighted average exposure to elemental carbon of not more than 0.12 milligrams per cubic metre of air, instead of 0.4 milligrams per cubic metre of air based on total carbon.

"As an organization with a long history rooted in promoting health and safety in the global mining industry, NORCAT welcomes the introduction of new rules aimed at improving the safety of Ontario’s mine workers,” said Jason Bubba Chief Operating Officer, Northern Ontario Research Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT). 

“These changes will help to reduce risks and hazards in underground mines, contributing to a safer working environment for all,” added Bubba. “We are proud to support the Government of Ontario’s commitment to prioritizing the safety of Ontario’s mining workforce, and look forward to a healthier, safer and more productive future for the industry."

Ontario has approximately 5,000 operating mines, 37 of which are underground. About 12,000 miners work below ground and Ontario mines employ approximately 29,000 workers in total.

"Clean air and a healthy work environment are fundamental to worker health. Having witnessed the devastation of occupational disease on my dad and the McIntyre Powder Project mine workers, it is very encouraging to see this significant shift toward providing cleaner air for these workers,” said Janice Hobbs Martell Founder of McIntyre Powder Project. “Thank you to Minister McNaughton for his commitment to continuing this progress, and thanks to the USW and CROSH for championing this change."

The Ontario government is committed to supporting mineral exploration in the province through investing in its Critical Minerals Strategy. Ontario has committed close to $1 billion to support critical legacy infrastructure such as all-season roads, broadband connectivity and community supports in the Ring of Fire region to keep moving forward on one of the most promising mineral deposits in Canada.

The Ontario government is also proposing amendments to the Mining Act that would ensure Ontario has a modern and competitive regime for mineral exploration and development.

With the recent introduction of the federal Critical Mineral Exploration Tax Credit, Ontario expects to provide an estimated $25 million per year in additional relief to support investment for a competitive mining sector with good jobs.

The introduction of battery electric mine vehicles and machinery will improve air quality in Ontario mines


Image BEV mining vehicles will improve air quality in mines

Tags: Northern Ontario / Mine Safety / All Articles