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Inquest into miner’s cyanide death begins in Timmins


An inquest into the death of millwright Denis Millette, 52, at Detour Lake Gold in northern Ontario June 2015 began Monday.

It begins more than seven years after his death by cyanide poisoning that led to charges against the company and several employees.

The death was deemed to be caused by criminal negligence on the part of Detour Lake Gold by having him work around liquid cyanide without proper protective equipment or adequate emergency response.

The first day of the virtual inquest gave jurors a behind-the-scenes look at the site where Millette came into close and long-term contact with toxic cyanide sludge that was leaking out of a machine that separates gold from other materials.

The lead Ministry of Labour investigator who responded to the incident recounted what he discovered at the Detour Lake working area.

He showed never-before-seen photos of the leaking machine, with cyanide sludge still on the ground, as well as where Millette would have been kneeling on the floor for up to 45 minutes at a time as he fixed the leaky machine.

The investigator revealed the mine didn’t require protective equipment that was impermeable to harmful chemicals, and that it was understood in the company's health and safety training that liquid cyanide can absorb through the skin and can be deadly.

Instructions provided by the chemical's supplier also noted that workers should wear protective coveralls, long rubber boots and gloves, chemical goggles and face shields.

As well, the investigator revealed that chemicals were likely leaking on the floor at least a day prior to the incident and had not been cleaned up.

He called the medical team's response to cyanide poisoning inconsistent and inadequate, adding that the team did have two cyanide antidote kits at mine when Millette was exposed to the chemical.

However, they were not given to him after being exposed. The lawyer for the coroner said staff apparently did not realize Millette was suffering from cyanide poisoning.

A health and safety expert testified that deaths by cyanide poisoning are very rare in Ontario, saying it made up only one of 30 mining fatalities between 2010 and 2021.

She testified that if all of the health and safety rules in place at the time were followed, Millette would likely still be alive.

This is the start of what could be at least a seven-day-long inquest, with about 15 witnesses in total set to testify.

It will end with recommendations from the jury about how to ensure a similar incident never occurs again.

Detour Gold has already paid $1.4 million fine, plus more than $750,000 in restitution to Millette's family.

Three employees were also set to go on trial for health and safety charges, following crown appeals. CTV News has been told that case is currently undergoing further appeals. Top Stories

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