There is insufficient evidence to convict managers or the corporation following the death of a worker at Craigmont Mine in 2008, B.C.’s criminal justice branch said Friday.
John Wilson died in February 2008, when his excavator flipped into a sump of water. Citing safety infractions at the mine, labour leaders called for prosecution under a section of the Criminal Code.
Based on a through investigation and review by three prosecutors, one with expertise in workplace fatality investigations, the branch found there is no substantial likelihood of conviction.
The report lays out the facts of the deadly event, Feb. 28, five years ago.
Wilson’s John Deere excavator flipped onto the side and into a sump full of water, blocking the doorway against the bottom. Windows were covered with protective screens.
While there was an escape hatch on the roof, it was blocked by a pin on a bush guard installed to protect the operator.
“While the access hatch in the bush guard could be opened, the underlying cab access hatch was blocked by the pin on the exterior guard,” the report said.
There is no evidence mine management was aware of the inability to use the escape hatch, the branch said.
“A review of committee safety records shows no mention of the bush guard being formally raised or considered as a safety issue.”
John Hall, a director at Kamloops and District Labour Council, applauded the branch for releasing the detailed report but said he has concerns with difficulty in prosecutions of similar cases.
A clear statement of reasons for not prosecuting is sometimes made public by the branch “so as to maintain confidence in the integrity of the system,” it said.
“Usually more information means more awareness of what went wrong,” said Hall, who had not read the report released late Friday afternoon.
But Hall said the labour movement won’t stop pressing for tougher laws to protect workers and ensure managers and corporations are held responsible.
The branch noted, under the Criminal Code, the Crown must prove that any breach of the duty to protect a worker “was committed with a wonton or reckless disregard for the life or safety of the worker.”
Hall called it “a pretty high bar.
“The labour movement is trying to lower that bar.”
While there was no emergency response team at the mine — operating at the time processing magnetite left over from historic copper operations — the branch said one was not legally required given the limited number of workers at the site.
The report said there is also no indication whether Wilson was conscious when the excavator overturned and would have been able to escape through a safety exit in the cab.
The report said earlier that day the sump began to fill with rain. Wilson was directed to build a new roadway in order to avoid the water. After the directive, Wilson was seen washing his track in the floodwater — contrary to mine policy.
He was next seen moving the machine toward the sump.
Moments later, workers saw the machine overturn. It is unknown why the excavator flipped.
Workers who jumped in to save him were prevented from getting in due to the blocked door and pin on the roof.
The branch also found the sump was not designed by a qualified engineer. But there is no evidence a better design would have avoided the accident.