The Ontario Ministry of Labour charged Detour Gold in late May with 15 violations of the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act regarding the death of the company’s 52-year-old employee, Denis Millette, due to cyanide poisoning. Three supervisors at Detour also received two charges each. A month prior, provincial police charged the company with criminal negligence.

On June 3, 2015, Millette was repairing the inline leach reactor, a machine that uses sodium cyanide to help separate gold and rock, when a broken valve exposed the unprotected Millette to the cyanide. Despite help from on-site medical staff, Millette died of cyanide intoxication.

The ministry’s list of Detour’s offences include not making sure the inline leach reactor Millette was working on at the time of his death was properly maintained, and for not ensuring that the antidote for cyanide poisoning was stored near the working area. The company was also charged with failing to inform supervisors and employees about the dangers of working with cyanide.

The supervisors were charged for not ensuring that Millette was wearing proper gear, and not supervising or instructing him properly on the job site.

According to amendments made to the Criminal Code of Canada in 2004 a company can face criminal charges for workplace accidents and deaths and be fined if found guilty. Those changes were in response to the Westray mine disaster in Nova Scotia nearly 25 years ago, where a methane explosion killed all 26 miners working underground at the time, after multiple orders from the province’s Department of Labour inspectors were not heeded.

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety eight companies, not including Detour, have been criminally charged in employees’ deaths since the legislation came into effect. One was Quebec paving company Transpave, which was charged and convicted of criminal negligence, and fined $100,000 plus a $10,000 victim surcharge, after one of its workers was crushed by a packing machine in 2008.

Detour Gold declined a CIM Magazine request for comment, but in a late-April press release the company’s CEO Paul Martin said, “We have and will continue to cooperate fully with both the Ontario Provincial Police and Ministry of Labour throughout their investigations and are taking these charges very seriously. In the meantime, we would like to express our sincere condolences to the family.”