VALE Canada Ltd. has been charged with 10 offences under the province's Workplace Safety and Health Act in a mining accident that killed a Thompson miner in 2011.
The charges, laid last month, include allegations that Vale did not provide a safe workplace, did not have safe work procedures and had unsafe equipment.
A provincial spokeswoman said that if convicted Vale would face fines up to $250,000 per count, or up to $2.5 million if convicted of all 10 charges. As well, the penalties could also include a jail term of up to six months.
Murray Nychyporuk, president of United Steelworkers Local 6166, said Friday it's the first time the mine has been charged in connection with the death of a worker.
"It's a strong message from the (province) to industry throughout Manitoba, not just Vale, that operations and companies need to provide safe working conditions," Nychyporuk said.
"Corrective actions did take place following the incident, but we had to lose a friend, a brother, a father and a son, all for corrective measures to be put in place."
Greg Leason, 51, a 23-year Vale employee, was working by himself on Oct. 7, 2011. He was operating a scoop tram, a large loader that scoops up rock, underground in the mine, when he and the machine fell several metres into an open area.
Leason, a father of two, was rushed to Thompson General Hospital, then sent by air ambulance to Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre, where he died 12 days later.
Nychyporuk estimated the open space Leason fell into was about nine metres wide and 30 metres long. The company has said the cavern was up to 45 metres deep.
Ryan Land, a spokesman for Vale's Manitoba operations, said the company can't comment about the charges because the matter is before the courts.
But Land said a joint investigation by the company and union into the accident came up with 21 recommendations to make working in the mine safer.
"Our thoughts are with Mr. Leason's family, friends and co-workers," he said.
"There's no greater way to honour his memory than to remain vigilant. We just want to ensure a tragedy like this is never repeated."
Nychyporuk said the union is continuing to review other jobs in the mine.
"We, as a union, look at what else we are doing that is unsafe," he said.
"We're looking to find other jobs to put safe work practices in place."