Archive | Mining Accidents, Deaths, Cave-Ins and Industrial Disease

[Industrial Disease] Tracking a toxic powder – by Mary Katherine Keown (Sudbury Star – April 20, 2017)

Administered as an antidote to silicosis, McIntyre Powder has become anything but the miracle cure it was touted to be in its early days.

As part of the Workplace Safety North conference on health and safety in mining, the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers presented findings from clinics they conducted, during which they interviewed current and former miners. They registered 325 miners, all male, all born between 1876 and 1963. They looked at instances of respiratory and neurologic symptoms. Their findings were telling.

“There are a number of important findings related to existing literature,” Dave Wilken, chief operating officer of OHCOW, told the audience. “Those are mainly neurological, respiratory and cardiovascular.” Continue Reading →

Do right by injured miners – Editorial (Toronto Star – April 19, 2017)

Ontario miners who were forced to inhale a black aluminum-based substance, who have now developed neurological diseases, must be taken care of. Just contemplating it is sickening: Ontario miners forced to inhale a black aluminum-based substance called McIntyre Powder every time they went on shift.

The powder the miners were forced to breathe in from about 1943 to 1980 was actually developed to reduce the likelihood of them developing lung diseases caused by the high content of carcinogenic silica in gold and uranium mines.

But it turns out what they were inhaling may have made them sick in other ways. New research suggests aluminum is a toxin that can cause neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s, if it gets into the bloodstream. Continue Reading →

Blood on the Mountain: Blood on Their Hands – by Michael Berkowitz (Huffington Post – April 18, 2017)

Mari-Lynn Evans and Jordan Freeman’s “Blood on the Mountains” is a searing indictment of the coal industry’s war on the people of Appalachia. But beyond its story of regional devastation, this stirring documentary is a template of class struggle across America.

Evans and Freeman track the development of the coal industry, nicely framing the main issues and players as they roll out their woeful tale. In the late 19th century, cheap abundant coal fueled the United States’ industrial growth. Because this resource was located in rural areas, nascent coal companies were able to steer development.

They could structure every aspect of the companies’ composition and of their workers lives. Coal barons were able to shape this system in part because of the remoteness of mines from population centers and the failure of corrupt local and weak, remote federal governments. Continue Reading →

In human experiment, Ontario miners say they paid devastating price – by Sara Mojtehedzadeh (Toronto Star – April 15, 2017)

“We were used like guinea pigs,” retired miner says of exposure to toxic powder meant to protect their lungs.

It was a human experiment on an unprecedented scale. Its target: 10,000 Ontario miners. Its tool: a mysterious black powder they were forced to inhale in a sealed room before plunging underground to work.

From 1943 to roughly 1980, an aluminum-based prophylaxis called McIntyre Powder was sold as an apparent miracle antidote to lung disease. It was designed, historical documents suggest, by industry-sponsored Canadian scientists bent on slashing compensation costs in gold and uranium mines across the north.

The problem: experts say aluminum is now known to be neurotoxic if significant doses get into the blood. And victims’ families say those exposed to Canada’s miracle McIntyre dust might be paying a devastating price. Continue Reading →

Role model for Sudbury workers mourned – by Jim Moodie (Sudbury Star – April 12, 2017)

Ronnie Lepage of Wahnapitae was a veteran operator of heavy equipment and a model and guide for many young workers. So it was especially shocking to family members and colleagues when the 59-year-old was pinned under a dump truck last Thursday on Vale property in Copper Cliff, dying subsequently in hospital from his injuries.

Working around big vehicles and other equipment “is something we’ve done all our lives,” said older brother Richard, 63. “He and I, and the other brothers, we’ve all done it forever. An accident like that is almost unheard of.” Younger brother Todd, 54, said it was Ronnie’s own vehicle, which he was driving for contractor Cecchetto and Sons, that wound up on top of him.

“It was a freak accident,” he said. “Ronnie was always safe, and a mentor to other young operators. I know a few young guys he works with and they’re freaked right out over it, thinking how could it happen to somebody like him. But that’s all it takes — you could do something a thousand times and that one time it doesn’t go right.” Continue Reading →

Lockerby Mine conditions concerned engineer – by Harold Carmichael (Sudbury Star – April 8, 2017)

A Ministry of Labour mining engineer assigned to investigate the scene of a double fatal mining accident at Lockerby Mine on May 6, 2014, was troubled by what he found.  Michael Kat said the area where the accident happened was so unstable he could not get to it.

“There was no telling what was on the verge of falling,” he testified Friday on the third day of an Ontario Court of Justice trial looking into a fall of ground that killed Norm Bisaillon, 49, and Marc Methe, 34.

They were working for contractor Taurus Drilling, which had been hired by First Nickel Inc. for production mining at the mine. While 1370918 Alberta ULC (the new owner of Taurus Drilling Services) is represented by counsel at the trial, First Nickel Inc. is now bankrupt, does not have representation and will be tried in absentia. Continue Reading →

50 years ago today, 15 men died in a B.C. coal mine explosion – by Liam Britten (CBC News BC – April 3, 2017)

Deadly Sparwood-area mine explosion remembered by people who were there and by city

Monday marks the 50th anniversary of the Balmer North mine explosion in southeastern B.C. The industrial accident ripped through an Elk Valley coal mine near present-day Sparwood and killed 15 men on April 3, 1967.

Some of the men were friends of Ewan Gordon, who, on Monday, reflected on the disaster and what life was like for coal miners back then. “You were kinda listening to the earth talkin’ to you, hoping it wasn’t gonna fall on your head,” he said. “You felt a lot closer to your maker when you were listening to the ground crack around you.

“We lived together. We ate together … when you congregate on the bus to and from work and whatnot, we’d tell [newer miners] stories. Whether they were impressed or not, I don’t know, but it’s kind of a forgotten era.” Continue Reading →

[Australia] ‘Coal miners stick together and we bleed black’ (Queensland Times – March 23, 2017)

WE BLEED black. That is what Bundamba MP and Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis Select Committee chair Jo-Ann Miller said about coalminers and their families in a forthright speech to parliament today.

Ms Miller moved that the the House take note of report No. 1 of the Committee, titled Inquiry into the re-identification of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis in Queensland-interim report. Ms Miller started off by telling the parliament that coalminers are a tough breed.

“As a coalminer’s daughter and granddaughter, I know this well,” she said. “We stick together and, as we say, we do not bleed red; we bleed black. “Unfortunately, that is so true of black lung disease. Continue Reading →

Mining’s ‘good news story’ – by Len Gillis (Sudbury Star – February 19, 2017)

No one can say for certain when it happened the last time, but Ontario’s mining industry is basking in what might be the best “good news story” to come along in quite awhile. No one died in a mining accident last year in Ontario.

In all of 2016, there was not one mining fatality and Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said everyone in the industry deserves a pat on the back because of it.

In an interview with The Daily Press, Flynn said labour leaders, mining managers and the rank-and-file workers can all take a bow for looking out for each other and for themselves. Flynn said it might have been seen as mission impossible, but now everyone knows it can be done. Continue Reading →

Lonmin reports lower output as protesters demand compensation – by Zandi Shabalala (Reuters U.K. – January 26, 2017)

LONDON – Lonmin LML.L reported weaker than expected output on Thursday, causing analysts to raise doubts over 2017 production targets, and faced demands for compensation following the shooting of 34 miners at Marikana in South Africa’s platinum belt.

The company reiterated its sales guidance for 2017, but said larger shafts, known as generation 2, had disappointed and production from them was 5.2 percent lower in the final three months of last year than in the previous year.

The production shortfall added to steep losses for Lonmin’s volatile share price. It was down more than 16 percent by 1230 GMT. The wider sector was roughly flat. .FTNMX1770 Continue Reading →

[First Nickel mining deaths] ‘Waiting for justice’ (Part 2 of 2) – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – January 23, 2017)

Accent: Union, families feel criminal charges warranted through Westray provision

The silence was gut-wrenching in a Sudbury courtroom last year for the families of two men attending preliminary proceedings into charges in the deaths of their loved ones May 6, 2014 at Lockerby Mine.

The families of Norm Bisaillon and Marc Methe attended court after eight charges were laid against mine owner First Nickel Inc. and five were laid against Taurus Drilling Services by the Ministry of Labour.

Bisaillon, 49, and Methe, 34, were killed by a fall of ground at FNI’s Lockerby Mine, just hours after they contacted an FNI employee to discuss a concern about the area in which they were working, their families say. Continue Reading →

[First Nickel mining deaths] Sudbury Accent: Grieving families wait for answers (Part 1 of 2) – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – January 21, 2017)

On Sunday, May 4, 2014, Norm Bisaillon was considering his options. Bisaillon, 49, was employed by Taurus Drilling Services, but was thinking about leaving Sudbury for another job. He told partner, Romeena Kozoriz, “I’m going to be going to the Yukon.”

Bisaillon was working for Taurus at First Nickel Inc.’s Lockerby Mine. He had 23 years’ experience at several companies.

“He never, ever was afraid to work in a place, OK, and he worked in South Africa where there’s no safety, there’s nothing,” said Kozoriz of Bisaillon’s 18-month stint there. “He wasn’t as concerned (there) for his safety as Lockerby.” Continue Reading →

After Jharkhand toll, 2016 one of deadliest years for mine workers – by Anil Sasi (Indian Express – January 3, 2017)

Eastern Coalfields, where the latest accident has taken place, is a subsidiary of State-owned Coal India Ltd (CIL), the world’s largest coal miner.

Thursday night’s mine collapse at Eastern Coalfields Ltd’s Lal Matia coal mine in Jharkhand rounds up one of the deadliest years for those toiling deep in the bowels of the earth.

The 17 mine worker deaths reported till January 1 sharply push up the mining fatality count for this year, which stood at 65 across both coal and non-coal mines during just the first six months of this year, for which latest data is available — translating into a fatality every three days. More than a dozen workers remain trapped.

In a sector whose safety record is far from inspiring, at least 122 people more were documented to have met with a serious accident during this period, which translates into a serious accident every one and a half days. With a fatal accident every three days, mining is arguably the most dangerous profession in India, alongside ship-breaking. Continue Reading →

Black Lung, Incurable and Fatal, Stalks Coal Miners Anew – Editorial (New York Times – December 24, 2016)

Appalachian health officials report a shocking rise in cases of black lung — the deadly coal-mining disease thought to have been reined in by a landmark federal law passed in 1969.

Young miners are proving particularly vulnerable because the thinner coal seams now being worked in Appalachia leave them vulnerable to a more volatile black lung strain rooted in silica dust, according to an investigative report by National Public Radio.

The emergence of a new generation of miners gasping for their lives should give President-elect Donald Trump, who has vowed to revive the industry, reason to reflect on a safer course for the very workers he claimed to prize as a candidate. There is no known cure for black lung, a wearying disease responsible for 78,000 deaths since 1968. Continue Reading →

Asbestos, Que., a town left pondering its name in wake of proposed ban – by Ingrid Peritz (Globe and Mail – December 17, 2016)

MONTREAL — To Canadians and much of the world, the word “asbestos” is synonymous with poison and a slow, painful death. But to 7,000 people in southern Quebec, the word is the name of their home. Now they are struggling over whether to turn their backs on it.

Ottawa’s announcement this week that it would ban the fibre has revived a debate in Asbestos about changing the town’s name, a symbolic gesture that would, in effect, wipe the product and the word off the map.

“To improve the economy, I’m ready to analyze all proposals, including changing the name,” the mayor of Asbestos, Hugues Grimard, said in an interview on Friday. “People are talking about it. I’m not closed to it.” Continue Reading →