Danny Hway vividly remembers the impact McIntyre Powder had on his father, Nicholas, who worked at Timmins’ McIntyre Mine for 47 years. At home, his dad wouldn’t speak of it, but he didn’t need to. His grim appearance at the end of every shift did the talking for him.
“He’d come home and his hands were black all the time, and any exposed skin was black,” Danny recalled. “He’d be coughing all the time and, blowing his nose, it was black all the time. He didn’t really want to talk about it — (that’s) life, right?”
Nicholas was one of thousands of miners across the North who were required to inhale the finely ground aluminum dust as a condition of their employment. But for him the stakes were higher than for most: preparing the powder for dissemination was his job.
On most days, Nicholas was sequestered in a small, dirty shack on site at McIntyre Mine, where, for eight hours a day, four months of the year, he pulverized aluminum pellets into the dust that would be shipped to mines around the world.
“I was told, by other miners I talked to, they would come and check on him and open the door, and they felt sorry for him, because you couldn’t see him,” the room was so blackened from the dust, Danny said.
On busy days, Nicholas had help from a cadre of about 12 more workers, among them Fern and Rolly Carriere, brothers who worked at the mine for 11 and 15 years, respectively. The three were introduced for the first time during the May McIntyre Powder Clinic in Timmins, which brought together former miners who were seeking answers about the use of McIntyre Powder at the mines.
“They used to deliver a big box or barrel of aluminum pellets, and (Nicholas) was the one who would put them into the ball mill,” Fern recalled. “Nick would put all the pellets in and he would put a big pot underneath and just flip it over, and the powder would fall down and he would fill the cans.”
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