30 years later, Sudbury mining tragedy lingers – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – June 21, 2014)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

For almost a week, Anne Marie MacInnis started and ended her day staring at four faces looking back from the middle of an eight-page flyer, lying on her kitchen table, published by Sudbury Mine Mill & Smelter Workers Local 598 in November 1984.
It’s a reprint of a report on the deaths of four men June 20 of that year at Falconbridge Mine.

MacInnis had many thoughts about Sulo Korpela, Richard Chenier, Daniel Lavallee and Wayne St. Michel leading up to Friday’s 30th anniversary Workers’ Memorial Day.

Where they married? Did they have children? Brothers and sisters? If they had lived instead of perishing in a tragic rockburst, what would their lives have been like?

Like so many others in Sudbury, MacInnis, 49, remembers where she was when news broke about the seismic event at the 4200-foot level that instantly killed all the men except St. Michel.

Members of the union of which MacInnis is the first female president, the city and much of Canada held their collective breath while mine rescuers worked 27 hours to get to St. Michel, with whom they were communicating. Tragically, the 22-year-old was killed by a fall of material 10 minutes before rescuers reached him.

“Mining tragedies continue to happen on our doorstep,” MacInnis told a crowd of about 150 people Friday at the Mine Mill property at Richard Lake.

“We want the deaths to stop,” said MacInnis, whose union, now called Mine Mill Local 598/Unifor, continues to press for improvements in health and safety in mining and other workplaces and against what she called “continuous attacks” on health and safety legislation by government.

Ron Michaud spoke on behalf of Mine Mill Local 598/Unifor Pensioners, some of whom can’t attend the memorial service because it still hits close to home three decades later.

Michaud spoke to a pensioner Thursday who said: “I see them guys every day and it’s too hard. I just can’t do it.”

The mining industry has been hit hard this year “by some awful blows,” said Michaud. He was referring to the April 6 death of millwright Paul Rochette, 36, at Vale’s Copper Cliff Smelter Complex and the May 6 deaths of experienced contract drillers, Marc Methe, 34, and Norm Bisaillon, 49, at First Nickel’s Lockerby Mine.

Michaud also spoke of the shooting deaths of three RCMP officers in Moncton, N.B., earlier this month and the deaths of 301 Turkish miners as workplace fatalities.

Former Local 598 president Rick Briggs spoke of the need for awareness and education to reduce the number of workplace injuries and deaths.

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