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Talvivaara managers in court over fatal poisoning of worker

Prosecutor calls for fines in involuntary manslaughter case, and accuses mining company of repeated negligence by failing to protect staff after a hydrogen sulphide leak in 2012, leading to the death of one employee.

Talvivaaran tehdasalue.
A nickel factory at Talvivaara's Sotkamo mine in central Finland Image: Heikki Rönty / Yle

A court in Kajaani, central Finland, began hearing the case against the embattled mining firm Talvivaara on Wednesday, who are accused of causing the fatal poisoning of a worker through repeated serious safety failures.

Three managers who worked at a metal factory at Talvivaara’s Sotkamo mine in 2012 are accused of involuntary manslaughter and occupational safety breaches, after failing to act when high levels of hydrogen sulphide were detected at the plant.

The prosecutor told the court that the managers neglected to take appropriate measures to protect the safety of their workers, such as by ensuring anyone entering the high-risk areas was wearing protective clothing.

As a result of these shortcomings, the worker was engulfed in a cloud of hydrogen sulphide while outside the factory, and died of hydrogen sulphide poisoning on 15 March 2012, the court was told.

Gas alarms

The court heard that personal gas alarms should also have been issued, and detectors should have been placed around the factory premises.

The prosecutor also said that all workers in the area should have been made aware that high hydrogen sulphide levels had been recorded.

Talvivaara were also accused of repeated safety failures in the factory’s working environment and inspection practices.

The prosecutor called for the defendants to be fined, as well as a 60,000 euro fine to be issued to Talvivaara.

The court is expected to sit until Thursday next week, and a judgement is expected in the autumn.

Talvivaara has previously been charged with a string of criminal negligence offences, over some of the largest environmental spills in Finnish history. Last month the police and Finland’s financial regulator announced they are investigating whether the company failed to report its production difficulties quickly enough to shareholders.

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