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Ontario lowering exposure limits for diesel exhaust in mines, will allow robots to be used

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April 11, 2023
By OHS Canada

Diesel Particulate Mining OELs Robots

Photo: Mishainik/Adobe Stock

Ontario is introducing new rules for mines in the province that call for increased ventilation and lower exposure to diesel exhaust.

It said the new exposure limits will be the “most protective” in North America, noting that long-term exposure to diesel exhaust can be a significant cause of lung cancer in miners.

Effective Sept. 1, 2023, the new exposure limit will be a time-weighted average exposure to elemental carbon of not more than 0.12 milligrams per cubic metre of air, instead of 0.4 milligrams per cubic metre of air based on total carbon.

“Miners have been the backbone of Ontario’s economy for generations, and we owe it to them and their families to do more to keep them safe,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. “These everyday heroes are critical to the future of our great province and I’m proud that our changes today will save lives.”

Rise of the robots

The province is also allowing track-mounted robots to be used in mines to increase safety, it said. These specialized machines with a high-definition camera will be controlled by an operator to identify loose rocks, misfired explosives and other safety hazards, while keeping workers out of danger.


“I come from a proud mining family and keeping workers safe has always been a top priority, but we can do better,” said George Pirie, Minister of Mines. “As our government helps companies build more mines, we need to attract the best and brightest to work in this exciting sector. These changes send the message that you can find safe, rewarding careers in Ontario’s mining industry.”

The amendments respond to calls from unions for a reduction of how much diesel particulate miners can be exposed to underground and follow recommendations from the Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review and recent coroner’s inquests, the province said in a press release.

Nearly 30,000 miners in Ontario

The regulatory amendments will come into force on July 1, 2023, and others in effect on Sept. 1, 2023, to allow employers time to comply.

Ontario has approximately 5,000 operating mines, 37 of which are underground. About 12,000 miners work below ground and Ontario mines employ approximately 29,000 workers in total.


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