By The Canadian Press
Vale (VALE-N) closed its No. 2 flash furnace in Sudbury early on Sunday morning Feb. 6 after molten metal leaked out between the tapping block and the furnace, the company has confirmed.
The failure of a tapping block on the northeast wall of the furnace caused the metal leak, which then ruptured cooling water lines and caused a reaction in the furnace.
“People working there had to run for their lives,” a Vale employee said in an anonymous telephone message left at The Northern Miner’s Toronto office. “This metal is at a temperature of 1200 degrees to 1300 degrees Celsius and two hundred tonnes of this molten metal and molten slag were dislodged, came out of the furnace, scattered all over the place, [and] started many fires.”
Angie Robson, Vale’s manager of corporate affairs for Ontario, said it would be hard to determine the amount of molten metal that escaped, but admitted that the incident was “serious.”
She noted that the Ministry of Labour is investigating the matter and that the company is also conducting its own investigation jointly with the United Steelworkers Union.
“Safety is always our priority,” she said. “We’re trying to focus on the extent of the damage and the cause.”
Robson also confirmed that there was some trouble in a different section of the same furnace earlier this month.
According to the employee who requested anonymity, the earlier incident at the south wall of the furnace caused an explosion that “turned a four-foot hole called a slag return into a fifteen-foot hole.”
“We’ve had two serious incidents like this on the same furnace,” he said. “In the nineteen years I’ve been here I’ve never known a situation like this where people have had to run for their lives and it’s happened twice now in a month.”
Robson said she didn’t know how long the No. 2 furnace would be shut down and said production will be affected, adding the company does not release production figures.
The No. 1 flash furnace is still operating.
I was wondering if the MOL or other governing body for health and safety was leading the investigation or was in conjunction with the Steelworkers Union? The steelworkers have a long history of fighting for the little guy and I was wondering if they were leading the investigation. Nothing would be hidden. Every piece of information would be out in the open.
Let the Steelworker attempt to make change here. With the help of the MOL a permanent corrective action plan will be developed and will take place to make sure there would be no recurrence.
Anything less would be unthinkable considering another incident would be #3 and finger pointing would take place especially if their luck runs out and someone was to be hurt or killed.
Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer