Teck Cominco, authorities probe cause of fatalities at Sullivan mine reclamation site
Environmental consultant Doug Erickson was one of four people who died May 17 at the site of Teck Cominco's Sullivan lead zinc mine near Kimberley, BC. The mine has been undergoing decommissioning and reclamation work since it closed in December 2001.
Erickson was conducting routine monthly monitoring at the water sampling station at the mine, work that he had performed for over ten years. After being advised that Erickson was missing, Teck Cominco sent its employee Bob Newcombe to search for him.
Newcombe found Erickson at the site of a water-sampling shed and, after notifying emergency authorities, he apparently entered the shed in an effort to assist the consultant and was himself overcome. Paramedics Kim Weitzel and Shawn Currier each tried to rescue the victims and succumbed in the process.
Personnel from the Kimberley Fire Department, equipped with the appropriate safety gear, removed all the victims from the site. The hazard area is localized and has been secured so that there is no risk to the adjacent community. "Teck Cominco joins with the community of Kimberley in mourning this tragic loss of life," said company president and CEO Don Lindsay. "We share the profound sadness of their loss."
Teck Cominco has brought staff on to the site, including an emergency response team from Trail, and is providing all necessary resources to support BC's Inspector of Mines and other authorities in their investigation. "We are working with the various regulatory agencies to determine what led to this situation today and we will cooperate with them fully in their continuing investigation," Lindsay noted.
The site of the incident is adjacent to a waste rock pile. Water seeping through the waste rock pile flows into a drainage collection system at the base of the pile and into a sampling station, which is inside a small shed. The water flows through a pipe and into a concrete basin in the building, where water quality and flow rates are measured. The water then flows through a pipe to the treatment plant.
Water at this station has been routinely sampled on a monthly basis for several years during operation and throughout the reclamation process. The Chief Mines Inspector has confirmed that the interior of the sampling station was oxygen-deprived, but the cause has not yet been determined.