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Official report on explosion criticizes blasting company

Feb 08 2012

A report released Tuesday by B.C.'s Ministry of Mines paints a picture as to what went wrong when three people were struck by flying rocks after a disastrous explosion at a Shawnigan Lake blasting company in September.

One woman lost an arm and two men were hit on the head with rocks that flew more than 300 metres after the blast at Mid-Island Aggregates on the afternoon of Sept. 20, 2011.

Ed Taje, senior inspector of mines who led the investigation, found the drill holes were overloaded based on the rock structure of about 4,000 cubic metres. Taje found the rock shattered in a horizontal direction, which sent jagged pieces flying into what should have been a safe zone.

The company did not follow proper procedure in initiating the blast, the report said. The blast machine initially failed, but when a second one was brought in, inadequate warning was given before the blast.

Witnesses at the site and business owners on nearby South Shawnigan Lake Road said they did not receive notification of the blast and when they heard it, it didn't sound right.

The inspector determined the blast was not electronically monitored and the required 24-hour notification was not given. "After the failure of the first attempt to fire the blast, there was no evidence to demonstrate that a safe work procedure for working with misfires was in place," Taje wrote.

The mine has been suspended since September and will remain so until the mine manager, Russ Cameron, meets with the board of examiners and retakes his blasting exam.

The mine has reopened but is being operated by another certified blaster.

Cameron will "not be allowed to resume drilling and blasting until a blast plan, prepared by an independent explosives consultant, has been filed with the regional inspector," the report said.

Taje said accurate drill logs must be maintained for all holes drilled in a blast pattern. Cameron must also notify residents within 1,000 metres of any blasts.

Betty Hopkins, then 57, lost her right arm when she tried to shield herself from flying rock.

Dan Butts, 49, survived by wearing a hard hat but suffered a skull fracture and brain damage from being hit by rock. David Clark, 46, suffered minor injuries.

Shawnigan Lake RCMP are conducting a separate investigation under the criminal code.


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