Excerpt from Until the End – by Adelle Larmour (The Story of John Gagnon-Health and Safety Union Activist)

Adelle Larmour is a journalist at Northern Ontario Business and Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal. Contact her at  untiltheend.larmour@gmail.com  to order a copy of Until the End.

Chapter 3 – A Change of Heart

The months that followed John’s first day of work formed a period in his life he could not have anticipated, yet it was one he chose consciously, despite the odds stacked against him. 

A good-natured, easy-going guy who always wore a smile on his face, John worked alone with his thoughts and the cacophony of machinery around him. The work was the same and the environment remained a nickel oxide dust-ridden death trap, particularly for those who chose not to wear their masks.

Sleepless nights began to take their toll as he continued to shovel the nickel oxide onto the conveyor along with some of the other fellows with whom he started. He would yawn and then automatically check his mask to make sure it was snug. As one of the few who wore breathing protection, he struggled to understand why more didn’t worry about the dose of nickel oxide ingested daily into their lungs.

None of it made sense, because it all seemed so obvious. Clearly something wasn’t adding up. Even the foremen who’d been there for many years were blinded to the inevitable. And then there were the guys who smoked on their breaks. Nothing like adding fuel to the hot burning flames.

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Killing the Goose that Lays the Mineral Sector’s Golden Eggs – The Industry’s Bad Reputation – by Jean-Francois Minardi

Jean-Francois Minardi is a senior policy analyst with the Fraser Institute, www.FraserInsitute.org.

The mining industry is under attack everywhere in Canada, even in the country’s friendliest location, Quebec.

Gone are the days when activists offered constructive criticism that allowed the industry to improve its corporate social responsibility profile and improve environmental standards in mining projects. Today anti-mining activists advocate one thing: an outright destruction of the mining industry.

Nowhere is this attitude more prevalent than in a recent report from the Institute for Research and Socio-Economic Information (IRIS), an organization whose self-described purpose is “to provide an opposite point of view to the neoliberal view,” that suggested nothing less than an end to mining in Quebec. Their simplistic argument can be summed up as, “the economic, social and environmental costs of the mining industry seem to outweigh the benefits, and the economic prospects of the sector in the coming years are not promising.”

Yet, according to the mining associations of Quebec – the Association minière du Québec and the Association de l’exploration minière du Québec – the IRIS study is riddled with factual errors that undermine its conclusions.

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FNX Mining Donates One Million Dollars to Laurentian’s Mining Programs – by Stan Sudol

(L to R) Vern Baker, FNX Mining Vice-President of Sudbury Operations; Dominic Giroux, President Laurentian University  Photo by Northern Life Staff - Marg Seregelyi

This article is also available on the websites of Northern Life and Northern Ontario Business.

Stan Sudol is a Toronto-based communications consultant, who writes extensively about mining issues.(stan.sudol@republicofmining.com)

Last Monday I attended a Laurentian University Next 50 Campaign event where two significant donations were made. Both FNX Mining Limited and Power Corporation of Canada each donated $1 million dollars to the university.

Power Corporation’s gift is earmarked towards graduate fellowships while FNX’s million dollars will be focused on mining programs.

In a press release, Terry MacGibbon, Chairman and CEO of FNX Mining Limited stated, “Laurentian is the go-to resource for research and employees for companies like FNX. This gift ensures Laurentian will be able to continue its tradition of training geologists and engineers with the knowledge and skills to hit the ground running when they enter the workforce.” 

(L to R) Vern Baker, FNX Vice-President, Sudbury Operations; Edward Nelles, LU Graduate Student; Harold Gibson, LU Director of Mineral Exploration Research Centre - Earth Sciences Department  (Photo by Marg Seregelyi)MacGibbon could not attend the event, however, Vern Baker, FNX Vice-President of Sudbury Operations was on hand to present the million dollar cheque. Baker said, “One of our strengths is our geology team, many members of which are proud Laurentian University graduates. Continue Reading →

The Mining Industry has a PR Problem – by Liezel Hill

Ever since its founding in 1981, the mission of Creamer Media has been to provide accurate and comprehensive news and information about South Africa’s and Africa’s industrial and resources sectors. Engineering News and Mining Weekly aim to offer news that you can use to give you a competitive edge in your business endevours.

This article was originally published May 14, 2010 
  
LICENCE TO OPERATE

TORONTO (www.miningweekly.com) – Mining companies based in the US and Canada find themselves in a strange situation.

With demand for commodities from China and India still red hot, and, as the rest of the world begins to clamber back from the Great Recession, most producers are cranking out all they can to take advantage of high prices and widening margins.

But, while bottom lines are thriving, the industry is having to defend its actions domestically and abroad to an increasingly hostile public.

The death of 29 coal miners at a West Virginia mine in April galvanised antimining sentiment in the US, and President Barrack Obama’s public criticism of the mine’s owner, Massey Energy, and attendance at the memorial service for the fallen men, has helped keep the tragedy in local and international headlines.

And in December last year, Canadian governor-general Michaëlle Jean was subjected to chants of ‘Canada go home’ on a visit to Mexico, where antimining protests took centre stage during her trip.

A month earlier, Canadian miners watched in frustration as environmental and human rights groups marched dozens of witnesses before Parliamentary committee hearings, to relate allegations – some nothing short of horrific – of Canada-based miners’ involvement in human rights and environmental crimes abroad.

The November 2009 hearings were held to discuss the contentious private members Bill C-300, which has proven a flashpoint for both miners and their opponents.

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Canada’s Mining Sector Fails to Communicate with Media and General Population – by Stan Sudol

Leo DiCaprio on Cover of Vanity Fair Green Issue - April 2007A version of this column was originally published in the June 2007 edition of Northern Ontario Business .

The mining sector is ignoring the green light at the end of the tunnel that is attached to a 100-tonne locomotive driven by the environmental movement.

The collision is going to be messy! It will impact the industry at a time when the voracious metal demands of China and India could bring enormous prosperity to isolated Aboriginal communities throughout northern Ontario.

This constant demonization of the mining sector by media-savvy NGOs is also affecting the recruitment of the next generation of workers the industry so desperately needs.

From the Academy award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth that stars Al Gore to Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio posing on the cover of Vanity Fair – photographed in the Arctic with a cute polar bear cub to highlight global warming – there is no doubt that environmental issues dominate society’s cultural and political agendas.

Unfortunately, the mining sins of the father are certainly coming back to haunt the sons!

Past industry practices that were detrimental to the environment are still highlighted by the anti-mining crowd today.

Yet, the reality of mining in the 21st century is quite the opposite. Continue Reading →

The Renaissance of Mining in British Columbia – by Pierre Gratton

This speech was given by Pierre Gratton, President and CEO of the Mining Association of British Columbia at the Vancouver Board of Trade Lunch on May 12, 2010.

 Good afternoon.

Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the Coast Salish First Nations whose traditional territory we are on today, and to thank the Vancouver Board of Trade for providing the Mining Association of British Columbia (MABC) with this opportunity to discuss the state of our province’s mining industry.

I wish to also thank my colleagues on the executive committee, board of directors and staff at MABC, who work tirelessly on behalf of the mining industry, along with friends and colleagues at AME BC and the Mining Suppliers Association of BC. Special thanks go to members of the Mining Week Committee for their hard work planning and organizing this week’s events.

Mining Week, a tradition for the past 103 years, celebrates the role this industry plays in making British Columbia a great place to live, work and play. This year we’ve partnered with the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum and its annual conference to reach out to a broader industry and public audience. We’ve also expanded our activities, with events taking place in many communities across the province.

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Canada’s Mining Sector Losing the Public Relations Battle – by Stan Sudol

This article was originally published in Northern Life on April 18, 2007

Stan Sudol is a Toronto-based communications consultant, who writes extensively about mining issues.(stan.sudol@republicofmining.com)

Sector fails at communicating aboriginal and green initiatives

The mining sector is ignoring the green light at the end of the tunnel that is attached to a 100-ton locomotive driven by the environmental movement. The collision is going to be messy. It will impact the industry at a time when the voracious metal demands of China and India could bring enormous prosperity to Canada’s northern and aboriginal communities as well as impoverished countries around the world.

There is no doubt that environmental issues dominate society’s cultural and political agendas.

On the political front, the new found commitment to environmentally green initiatives by the McGuinty and Harper governments spell enormous challenges for an industry that most urbanized Canadians still feel is a major source of habitat destruction and pollution.

Mining Sins

The mining sins of the father are certainly coming back to haunt the sons. Past industry practices that were detrimental to the environment are still highlighted by the anti-mining crowd. Yet, the reality of mining in the 21st century is quite the opposite. Continue Reading →

Barrick Gold’s Dominican Republic’s Environmental Clean-up Reflects Modern Industry Approach – by Nancy White

This article is from the April 2010 issue of Beyond Borders: A Barrick Gold Report on Responsible Mining.

At the Pueblo Viejo project in the Dominican Republic, one of the most ambitious environmental clean-up efforts in recent mining history is underway. When the former Rosario Dominicana mine shut down its operations in 1999, proper closure and reclamation was not undertaken. The result has been a legacy of polluted soil and water and contaminated infrastructure.

Barrick acquired the property in 2006 as part of the Placer Dome acquisition. Today, what was once a hazardous area has been transformed into a safe and busy construction site, as some 4,500 employees and contractors converge to build the new Pueblo Viejo.

The clean-up is also creating a healthier living environment for nearby residential communities that have also been affected.

A Partnership Approach

Responsibility for the clean-up is shared between Pueblo Viejo Dominicana Corp. (PVDC), a company jointly owned by Barrick (60%) and Goldcorp (40%), and the Dominican government. A special lease agreement (SLA), which set out the terms for both parties, was ratified by the Dominican National Congress and President Leonel Fernandez in November 2009. Continue Reading →

The Reclamation of Sudbury: The Greening of a Moonscape (Part 2 of 2)

This article was originally published in Viewpoint: Perspectives on Modern Mining, a publication of Caterpillar Global Mining (2008-Issue Four)

PERFECT TIMING

While mining companies were working on becoming better citizens of Sudbury, an effort was under way to begin turning around the community’s barren landscape.

The newly formed Regional Municipality of Sudbury created a “Technical Tree Planting Committee,” which in 1978 changed its name to the Vegetation Enhancement Technical Advisory Committee (VETAC). The organization is committed to the restoration and protection of Sudbury’s air, land and water.

At the same time, joint work between the Ministry of Natural Resources and Laurentian University was under way to create the “science” necessary to regreen Sudbury’s landscape.

As part of its reclamation efforts, Vale Inco had tried sowing grass seed—which would germinate, but the roots would wither as soon as they encountered the contaminated soil. After years of experimentation, Laurentian researchers—led by the late Keith Winterhalder, a Laurentian professor and former VETAC chairman—learned that an application of ground limestone could detoxify soil. They also learned that if a sparse grass cover could be established on a rocky hillside that had been treated with limestone and fertilizer, seeds from the few existing trees in the area would blow in, germinate and grow.

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The Reclamation of Sudbury: The Greening of a Moonscape Part (1 of 2)

This article was originally published in Viewpoint: Perspectives on Modern Mining, a publication of Caterpillar Global Mining (2008-Issue Four)

Community and industry come together to save the environment

Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, is a tourist destination, with major attractions like Science North and its internationally renowned science center and IMAX Theatre, dozens of lakes and scenic attractions. It has been called one of the sunniest areas of Ontario, with clean air and world-renowned environmental initiatives. It has even been cited by the United Nations for its land reclamation program and has won several other international and national awards.

However, Sudbury looked radically different just 35 years ago, when a group of transplanted professors, municipal employees, mining company leaders and local residents put their heads together to come up with a way to save it.

Years of mining, logging, fires, smelter emissions and soil erosion had taken their toll, wiping out almost all of the vegetation in the area and poisoning lakes and streams. Because there were no trees on barren sites, there were no leaves to create the mulch that protects the soil. As a result, the barren soil suffered from severe frost in the winter and too much heat in the summer.

Sudbury’s landscape was compared to the surface of the moon. Editorial cartoonists joked that birds had to carry their lunchboxes from tree to tree because they were few and far between.

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An Unlikely Hero – Health and Safety Union Activist John Gagnon – by Adelle Larmour

This article is from a special publication call Fabulous Northern Ontario which celebrated the 25th  anniversary of Northern Ontario Business. Adelle Larmour has written a book about John Gagnon’s valiant struggles for the health and safety of his fellow worker called Until the End. Contact the author to purchase a copy of Until the End: untiltheend.larmour@gmail.com

He was a man ahead of his time. An ordinary person who had a vision and an unyielding drive to see justice done in his workplace.

Jean Gagnon, retired Inco employee and activist for sinter plant workers in Copper Cliff, spent his entire life fighting for the recognition of industrial disease and compensation claims for 250 men and their families, whom he affectionately refers to as “my boys.”

Sitting casually in the living room of his Sturgeon Falls home in a quiet neighbourhood near the shore of Lake Nipissing, he talks about the asbestos recently found in his lungs, as well as the half-inch thick lesion of nickel oxide sitting in the bottom of his left lung.

His own battle is about to begin, but he won’t fight it himself: “The lawyer who handles his own claim has a fool for a client,” said Gagnon.

For the past five years, Gagnon has battled colon and prostate cancer.

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Excerpt from Until the End – by Adelle Larmour (The Story of John Gagnon-Health and Safety Union Activist)

Adelle Larmour is a journalist at Northern Ontario Business and Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal. Contact her at  untiltheend.larmour@gmail.com  to order a copy of Until the End.

Chapter 1 – John Gagnon Introduction

Millions of tiny crystal particles hung in the bitter northern Ontario air, daring the adventurous traveller to make his or her way through them on that frigid Monday morning, February 9, 1951. John (Jean) Gagnon, son of a farmer from Fabre, Quebec in a family of eight siblings, walked a mile through that minus 49-degree Fahrenheit cold. His eyes carefully followed the sidewalk as he walked from the flour-mill area to downtown Sudbury, listening to the cars drive by, wondering how they could see where to go.

He left the Park Hotel where he was staying, eager to catch the bus and arrive on time for his first day of work at the mining giant Inco Ltd., the largest nickel mine in Ontario, and at that time, the world.

The 24-year-old John was no stranger to colder climates, but this bone-chilling frost caused even him to hasten his pace while every suspended frozen droplet felt like a burning pinprick on his numbing cheeks.

Steady employment was John’s goal. If he spent a few months working at Inco, he could scrape up enough cash to pay back money owed to his friends and buy a ticket to Vancouver. He’d already pawned his guns and rifles to get to Sudbury. A full-time job supporting this westward trip was definitely the order of the day. 

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Michael Solski Obituary – by Mick Lowe

This obituary was published in the Lives Lived section of the Globe and Mail on November 17, 1999.

Union leader, municipal politician, Liberal Party functionary, historian, author, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Born Oct. 2, 1918, in Coniston, Ontario. Died Oct. 19, 1999 in Sudbury, Ontario of heart failure, aged 81.

Near the end of his long life, it was my pleasure to record Mike Solski’s oral autobiography for posterity. One of his earliest memories was talking his father’s lunch to him at work, on the floor of the old nickel smelter in Coniston just a long stone’s throw from the family home.

In 1935, at the age of 17, Mike followed in the footsteps of both his father and grandfather and went to work in the Coniston smelter. Mike well remembered the days when the smelter manager was automatically elected mayor of Coniston, and when shift bosses would arrive at workers’ homes unannounced demanding their annual Christmas tribute – cash or a bottle of booze.

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Mining Companies and First Nations: Many Success Stories in Northern Ontario – by Norm Tollinsky

Norm Tollinsky is editor of Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal, a magazine that showcases the mining expertise of North Bay, Timmins and Sudbury. Go to the December 2009, issue to read about the many successful partnerships between Northern Ontario’s Aboriginal communities and the mining industry.

This issue’s Special Report on First Nation Engagement in the Mining Industry sheds light on an aspect of the industry that some may have thought incidental. In November 2006, a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed a requirement by government to consult with and accommodate First Nation communities with respect to mining, forestry and other economic activities on their traditional lands. This decision changed the way mining companies do business and caused the Ontario government to amend the Mining Act to reflect the new reality.

The mining industry in Ontario dates back 125 years. That makes it either ancient or the new kid on the block depending on your perspective. For First Nation people, who have called Ontario home for more than 7,000 years, it’s mostly the latter. Mining and exploration companies staked claims and mined Ontario’s riches in most cases without consulting or accommodating the communities on whose traditional territories the activity took place. The First Nations, as one chief put it, were confined to the bleachers.

Today, it’s a different story. Mining companies are hiring vice-presidents of Aboriginal affairs, suppliers are establishing joint venture enterprises with First Nation communities and a whole industry of legal and consulting services is springing up. Continue Reading →

The Sudbury Experience: Report on an Oral History Project from a Labour Perspective – by Jim Tester (Part 2 of 2)

Jim Tester (1913-1995) was the former mine mill president of Local 598 from 1969-1974 which represented the Falconbridge workers in Greater Sudbury. He is one of the key historical figures in Sudbury’s labour history and wrote a column for Northern Life from 1974 to 1993 in which he shared his considerable knowledge of union struggles and socialist causes.

This is an address by Jim Tester to the Labour Panel of the Canadian Oral History Association, University of Ottawa, June 8-10, 1982.

Essentially, their struggles were for measures of industrial democracy. They believed they should have some control over their working conditions, and their lives in the company-dominated villages and towns. At the turn of the last century they did not gracefully accept the 12-hour day and the bad working conditions. Their ranks were rampant with thoughts of revolt and revenge.

Next year, Sudbury will be celebrating its 100th Anniversary. Many books have been written about Canada’s foremost mining and smelting city. None have told the story of its working people, their aspirations and their struggles, which have built the Sudbury communities into what they are today. If official historians have their way, none will be written. The truth is too staggering in its ramifications. It must therefore, be suppressed or subverted.

When I retired six years ago, after nearly 25 years service with Falconbridge Nickel Mines, I decided to dedicate myself to uncovering labour’s story in Sudbury. Continue Reading →