Reporter’s notebook: Covering the 1980 Val d’Or mine tragedy – by Len Gillis ( – May 24, 2023)

The Belmoral gold mine in Val d’Or experienced a collapse that sent more than a million gallons of water, sediment and slime rushing into the underground workings — and claimed the life of eight miners. reporter Len Gillis was a CFCL TV reporter in Timmins at the time and he recalls the day

I didn’t know what the urgency was at the time but CFCL news director Jim Prince said to grab as much camera gear as I could carry and to bring half a dozen new video tapes. I was just coming in to work at the news office at CFCL TV in Timmins. Jim was busy on the phone trying to charter a plane. That raised my eyebrows real fast.

Camera, video recorder, tripod and tapes. That’s a lot of equipment to carry on a plane. When Jim got off the phone, he said I had to get over to the Northern Quebec mining city of Val d’Or. It was May 21, 1980, the morning after the first ever Quebec separation referendum.

My first thought was that something terrible had happened because of the referendum. It wasn’t that. One of Jim’s many local stringers told him there had been a cave-in overnight at the Belmoral Ferderber gold mine in the part of Val d’Or known as Bourlamaque. It was believed that several miners were somehow trapped underground. Several others had literally escaped with their lives.

Part of a road, part of a lake and part of a swamp had collapsed into the mine workings around 10 p.m. the night before, May 20, 1980. Jim had called Austin Airways, based at the Timmins Airport, hoping to get a charter flight.

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