In the hours before John Mylod died of injuries sustained in an accident at a remote northern B.C. jade mining site, the 31-year-old’s colleagues did their best to save his life.
Mylod was ejected from an excavator on July 20, 2015 as it rolled down a steep slope at the Polar Jade mine site, east of Dease Lake in the northwest corner of B.C.
In addition to being site supervisor, he was also the first aid attendant.
According to an agreed statement of facts presented at Vancouver provincial court Friday, Mylod self-diagnosed himself to his co-workers as they comforted him before a helicopter arrived.
His death has shaken Green Mountain Jade Inc. — a tiny operation that exports jade to the Asian market. The mine manager was a childhood friend.
And on Friday, the company’s operation manager offered a letter of apology to the court as part of proceedings that saw Green Mountain Jade fined $20,000 for a breach of safety regulations.
“It is difficult to explain how sorry we are that this has happened. John was a very passionate and valued member of our team and his passing has affected us all deeply,” the letter read.
“We are sorry beyond words.”
‘Excellent corporate citizen’
Judge Ellen Gordon issued the fine under the provisions of the Mines Act after Green Mountain Jade pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that all employees receive thorough orientation and basic instruction in safe work practices.
In addition to the fine, the company also paid $7,500 for Mylod’s funeral and donated $43,000 to his mother.
The case highlights both the dangers inherent in mining and the challenges of overseeing an industry located in sites that are thousands of kilometres away from regulators.
According to the company’s website, Green Mountain Jade is one of the world’s largest suppliers of nephrite jade, producing more than 250 tonnes of jade per year, primarily for the Chinese market.
Gordon called Green Mountain Jade an “excellent corporate citizen.” Although Mylod’s death exposed a breach of regulations, both the Crown and the defence agreed that the violation didn’t cause the tragedy.
Blunt force trauma
On the afternoon of the accident, Mylod was working alone on a steep slope when his excavator became stuck.
According to the agreed statement of facts, he went back to the mining camp and asked two colleagues to help. One of the men recorded a video of their efforts “for future reference as a learning experience.”
Mylod first attempted to use the bucket of the excavator to pull the machine uphill. He then made the decision to drive the excavator downhill instead.
“During the manoeuver, the excavator lost control by sliding down the steep slope, then rolled several times ejecting Mylod,” the agreed statement of facts says.
“Mylod sustained serious internal injuries from blunt force trauma.”
Mylod received his certificate as a hydraulic excavator operator in April 2013 but failed to apply for re-certification within 12 months as required.
Crown prosecutor Louisa Winn said recovering excavators from steep slopes would have been discussed in the course he took, but wouldn’t be part of a written exam.
She also said that recovering machines from long, steep downhill slopes is tricky and at times unreasonable, but that Mylod was likely concerned about the loss of an expensive machine.
‘The same as losing a family member’
One of Mylod’s two co-workers was unaware of any emergency response plan and the other knew that the plan was posted in the cookhouse. They contacted the operations manager who arranged for a helicopter.
Mylod was placed on a stretcher and flown to the Dease Lake medical centre where he died an hour after arriving.
“Green Mountain Jade admits that it could have done more to ensure that the workers were better trained in safe work practices,” the agreed statement of facts reads.
“While relevant to the overall context, it has not been established that lack of training caused the accident.”
In the year after Mylod’s death, fines for similar breaches of the Mines Act were raised from a maximum of $100,000 to $1 million. But the fines are not applied retroactively.
Green Mountain Jade has no history of infractions and there was no evidence the company acted deliberately to breach the safety rules.
In the time since the accident, the company has upgraded its emergency response plan and created a procedure for working in steep terrain.
“When it happened it felt the same as losing a family member and it is not a feeling I would want to pass on to anyone,” the operation manager’s letter of apology read.
“We take seriously our responsibility to ensure that this will never happen again.”