Many of the same people spoke at Monday’s 32nd Workers’ Memorial Day as they have in other years, but their message never fails to resonate. Mines are deadly environments where death, injury and disease are ever present. So, then, is the need to strive for improved health and safety, and to reach the goal of zero harm underground and in surface plants.
The annual event held by Mine Mill Local 598/Unifor drew more than 150 people to the union’s Richard Lake Campground for two hours of speeches and remembrances. The day was first held 31 years ago, a year after the June 20, 1984, deaths of four men in the No. 5 shaft at Falconbridge Mine.
As often as the tragedy is recalled, the story of how Sulo Korpela, Richard Chenier, Daniel Lavallee and Wayne St. Michel lost their lives still causes chills to run down the spine. The men died after a 3.5-magnitude rock burst struck at 10:12 a.m., damaging the mine between the 3,800-foot and 4,200-foot levels.
Few living in Sudbury at that time can forget the agony when rescue workers reached Michel, one of the trapped men, with whom they had had contact for 27 hours, 15 minutes before he died. The tragedy changed Sudbury forever, said Local 598 in its program for Monday’s service.
Sadly, another name was added to the list of miners killed underground this year. Richard Pageau died on the job Oct. 20, 2015, at Nickel Rim Mine South.
Dave Stewart, vice-president of Local 598, choked up when speaking about Pigeau, who was his friend. It was eight months ago, but it seemed as if it was yesterday, said Stewart of the incident.
Speaker after speaker shared the sense that the loss of the four miners in 1984 and others since then is as sharp and painful today as it was 32 years ago.
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