Sept. 19, 1992: Labour tensions high as Yellowknife blast kills replacement gold miners – by Chris Zdeb (Edmonton Journal – September 19, 2013)

Nine gold miners were killed in an explosion during a strike at the Giant Gold Mine in Yellowknife in one of the worst mass murders in Canadian history. The replacement workers were riding in a man-car more than 200 metres below the surface when the blast happened about 10:30 a.m. Six victims were from Yellowknife, two from Ontario and one from New Brunswick.

The union vehemently denied any responsibility for the explosion, which was investigated by the RCMP. Still, union officials expected violence in Yellowknife to get worse as more people who blamed the union for the explosion vented their anger. The mine was built in the 1930s and owned by Royal Oak Mines Ltd. It had continued to operate through the strike with replacement workers.

About 240 members of the Canadian Association of Smelter and Allied Workers walked off the job on May 23 in response to the company asking workers to take wage and benefit cuts and to tie any new contract to the price of gold, because of declining gold prices.

Workers wanted better pension benefits, improved safety standards and a five- to 10-per-cent wage increase.

In the year after the explosion, the RCMP interrogated hundreds of strikers, their families, and supporters, wiretapping their telephones and searching their houses. The strike dragged on for 18 months. Mine owner Margaret Witte refused to negotiate with the union until an arrest was made.

Low gold prices in 1997 ($287.05) and 1998 ($288.70) caused Royal Oak to go bankrupt in April 1999, and its mining assets were liquidated. (The price of gold today is $1,664.)

Union member and dismissed miner Roger Warren later confessed to and was convicted by a jury of nine counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1995.

In 2004, he blamed Royal Oak Mines, the security company and his union. He argued that a simple screen and padlock over a broken window would have dissuaded him from planting the bomb, and that he was only capable of the bombing because replacement workers had been “dehumanized” by his union.

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