Historic strike recalled – by Kevin McSheffrey (Elliot Lake Standard – April 16, 2014)

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

ELLIOT LAKE — It was a clear, but cold morning when two bus loads of United Steelworkers stopped at the intersection of Highway 108 and what was once the turnoff to Denison Mines, about 15 kilometres north of Elliot Lake on Wednesday.

This was the second day of a three-day forum that began in Sudbury and will end here Thursday. As many as 90 people from across the country and parts of the United States took part in the forum to remember and commemorate an event that took place in Elliot Lake four decades ago.

The visit to Elliot Lake was to mark the 40th anniversary of the Denison Mines wildcat strike that started on April 18, 1974, and lasted three weeks.

The wildcat strike was to protest the deplorable and unsafe working conditions. One of the biggest issues was ventilation. Underground mineworkers were breathing in dust contaminated with radon daughters, resulting in many getting silicosis and lung cancer, and ultimately dying.

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COMMENT: The Elliot Lake strike and 40 years of safer mines – by Marilyn Scales (Canadian Mining Journal – April 15, 2014)

Marilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.

Forty years ago uranium miners in Elliot Lake, ON, staged a wildcat strike to call attention to the need for improved health and safety conditions. Silicosis and lung cancer were occupational hazards. The miners’ determination, and that of their union, led to the Occupational Health and Safety Act

To commemorate 40 years of increasing mine safety, the United Steelworkers (USW) is memorializing the Elliot Lake strike this week, April 15 -17 at the USW Local 6500 Steelworkers Hall and Conference Centre in Sudbury, ON.

Highlight of the tribute is Wednesday’s trip to Elliot Lake where participants will set up a mock picket at the entrance to the former Denison mine. A tour of the Elliot Lake Nuclear and Mining Museum and a re-dedication ceremony at the Miners’ Memorial are also planned.

Other activities in Sudbury include a look at the history of the Elliot Lake miners’ strike, a review of occupational disease, and an update on the current Ontario Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review.

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Elliot Lake wildcat strike led to key law – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – March 26, 2014)

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

United Steelworkers will mark a milestone in occupational health and safety next month with a forum to commemorate the 40th anniversary of a wildcat strike in Elliot Lake that led to safer workplaces throughout Ontario.

The forum will mark the start of the three-week strike by about 1,000 Steelworkers in 1974 at Elliot Lake’s Denison uranium mine that resulted in the Government of Ontario appointing a royal commission headed by James Ham.

The Ham Commission on Mine Safety resulted in the creation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 1979, the provincial law governing health and safety in the workplace, and the internal responsibility system.

The IRS is based on the principle that everyone in the workplace, workers and employers, are responsible for safety and for the safety of those around them John Perquin, a USW staff representative who works in the union’s head office in Pittsburgh, arrived in Elliot Lake about seven years after the strike that was a watershed moment in workers’ safety.

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Top Ten Mining Events in Northern Ontario History – by Stan Sudol (March 22, 2014)

This column was also published on the Huffington Post – the “New York Times” of the web: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/stan-sudol/ontario-mining_b_4885841.html

Klondike Versus Northern Ontario

For crying out loud, I continue to be astonished with our collective Canadian obsession over the Klondike Gold Rush while northern Ontario’s rich and vibrant mining history is completely ignored by the Toronto media establishment, especially the CBC.

Discovery Channel’s recent six-hour mini-series on the Klondike – vaguely based on Charlotte Gray’s book, “Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich in the Klondike – once again highlighted this glaring snub.

Unfairly, the Klondike did have the benefit of terrific public relations due to famous writers like Jack London, Robert W. Service and Pierre Berton, but I still don’t understand how this brief mining boom continues to dominate the “historical oxygen” in our national psyche.

At its peak, the Klondike only lasted a few years – 1896-1899 – and produced about 12.5 million ounces of gold. And unlike the California gold rush that created one of the largest and richest states in the union, the entire Yukon Territory’s population today is about 36,000. Contrast that with booming Timmins with 45,000 hardy souls who have dug out of the ground about 68 million ounces and counting of the precious metal, since the Porcupine Gold rush of 1909.

It’s enough to make to make Benny Hollinger, Jack Wilson and Sandy MacIntyre – the founders of this extraordinary deposit – spin in their collective graves!

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Mine rescue wasn’t consulted after Elliot Lake mall collapse – CBC News Thunder Bay (September 12, 2013)


Elliot Lake rescue commander Bill Neadles tells inquiry he didn’t believe mine rescue was an option

The Elliot Lake inquiry has heard the leader of the rescue operation at the collapsed mall never called Ontario mine rescue to see if they could help.

When the community was told the rescue at the mall was over — because the building was too unstable — the idea of calling mine rescue was raised by area residents.

Heavy urban search and rescue commander Bill Neadles was in charge of the operation at the mall. During testimony on Thursday, he told the inquiry he didn’t believe mine rescue was an option.

“A mine is one set of skills and expertise and risks,” he said. “A structural collapse is a total separate discipline and it would be my opinion that they wouldn’t have the training and ability to do anything.”

But Neadles also said he didn’t know a lot about mine rescue and didn’t check to see if that was the case. The inquiry will hear more about whether mine rescue could have helped at the mall.

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Elliot Lake: The first rescuers inside the mall share their harrowing account – by by Michael Friscolanti with Andrew Stobo Sniderman (Maclean’s Magazine – July 9, 2012)


Plus, what the tragedy in Elliot Lake says about our country’s readiness to deal with catastrophes

In places like Elliot Lake (population 11,300), the locals like to say that everyone knows everyone. It’s not true, of course. Even the smallest of towns have strangers. But in this pocket of northern Ontario—where Lucie Aylwin was proudly born and raised—it’s hard to find someone who didn’t know her. An employment counsellor stationed at the Algo Centre Mall, the 37-year-old helped countless residents fine-tune their resumés and land a job. “She would help anybody,” says her fiancé, Gary Gendron. “If she wasn’t capable of doing it, she would find a way of doing it. She would never give up.”
On that Saturday afternoon, June 23, Aylwin was at work—not in her usual office, but at the lottery kiosk on the mall’s second floor, right across from the food court. With a wedding to plan, she took the weekend job to help pay the bills. “We had breakfast together,” Gendron recalls. “She gave me another big hug and a kiss and said: ‘I’ll see you at 6:30.’ ”
It was a few minutes past 2 o’clock when Doloris Perizzolo walked toward the lottery counter. The 74-year-old widow was a food-court regular, another familiar face among so many. Just days earlier, Perizzolo had won $1,000 on a “Money Multiplier” scratch ticket. She was back again to test her luck.

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Sudbury-born mine tech assists in Elliot Lake mall excavation [Penguin Automated Systems] – by Lindsay Kelly (Northern Ontario Business – July 2012)

Established in 1980, Northern Ontario Business provides Canadians and international investors with relevant, current and insightful editorial content and business news information about Ontario’s vibrant and resource-rich North.

Robot recon

There’s an unwritten code adhered to by people working in the mining industry: when emergency strikes, you do whatever you can to help. That’s why Greg Baiden didn’t hesitate to offer up a pair of $2-million reconnaissance robots when he got word that part of the roof had collapsed at the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, potentially trapping people inside.
Baiden, chair and chief technology officer of Penguin Automated Systems Inc., was actually in Charlotte, N.C., en route to Florida to test a new optical communications system, when he got the call, but co-ordinating from afar, a team was mobilized from his Sudbury office.
The crew arrived in Elliot Lake on the evening of June 27, a day after the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) team tasked with sifting through the rubble had reached the end of its capabilities. Though originally created for use in underground mines, Penguin designed the robots with mine rescue in mind.

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Engineers who declared mall structurally sound were guilty of professional misconduct in 2010 – by Stephen Spencer Davis (Globe and Mail – July 14, 2012)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Two engineers who this year signed a letter declaring the Elliot Lake Algo Centre Mall structurally sound were found guilty of professional misconduct for work on an unrelated project by a provincial regulatory body in 2010.

The Ontario Provincial Police are conducting a criminal investigation into the Algo Centre’s collapse on June 23, which killed two people and injured several more. A judge was recently appointed to head a public inquiry.

Although city officials have remained tight-lipped about past inspections on the mall, documents released this week reveal that the engineers, Gregory Saunders and Robert Wood of M.R. Wright & Associates, inspected the building as recently as April, 2012.

Details of inspections on the Algo Centre performed by M.R. Wright are sparse, and there is no indication of any irregularities in the firm’s work there. A May, 2012, letter to the mall’s manager, Rhonda Bear, signed by Mr. Wood and Mr. Saunders, noted rust on beams in the mall, but declared the building structurally sound.

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Ontario’s emergency response protocols under review following Elliot Lake disaster – by Adam Radwanski and Anna Mehler Paperny (Globe and Mail – June 28, 2012)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

With two bodies pulled from the wreckage of Elliot Lake’s Algo Mall, Dalton McGuinty’s government is set to begin a grim review of whether Ontario’s own emergency-response processes undermined the ultimately fruitless rescue mission.

A source in the Premier’s Office confirmed on Wednesday that the review will consider whether the specialized excavator used to dismantle the collapsed mall – four days after the crisis began – should have been brought in sooner.

After confusion about who was calling the shots on the ground, the review will examine whether the current emergency-response system delegates authority properly.

It will also consider whether structural concerns about the mall, brought to the Labour Ministry’s attention more than once, should have been identified and fixed before its collapse. But the overriding question hanging over the government concerns the strange sequence of events on Monday.

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Damage control in Elliot Lake’s disaster zone – Martin Regg Cohn (Toronto Star – June 28, 2012)

The Toronto Star, has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Disaster brings out the best in us — our bravery, our resolve, our heart. Tragedy also brings us together. Except in Elliot Lake, where the dark events of the last few days have shone an uncomfortable light on the gap between our government and ourselves.
When the authorities announced they were giving up rescue efforts Monday night, police reinforcements were called in to restrain crowds of vigilantes who volunteered to go in themselves. Their spontaneous protests evoked Elliot Lake’s heyday as a mining town where rescue crews famously pledged to leave no man behind.
But when government takes charge, an engineer from the labour ministry can declare the disaster zone an unsafe worksite — and obediently, seemingly, rescuers down tools. Will they one day restrict firefighters from fighting fires deemed inherently risky?
Amid the recriminations, officials are trying to rescue themselves from a public relations disaster of their own making. In this damage control exercise, which almost dwarfs the original rescue mission in scale, they insist no one ever truly gave up.

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PM offers help of Canadian forces in Elliot Lake rescue efforts – by Anna Mehler Paperny, Stephen Spencer Davis and Jane Switzer (Globe and Mail – June 26, 2012)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

TORONTO and SUDBURY – A senior Ontario government source said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty spoke with Prime Minister Stephen Harper Monday night about the situation in Elliot Lake, and asked for federal assistance.

“The prime minister seemed willing and now our officials are working together,” the source said. A spokesman for Mr. Harper said the prime minister has offered the services of the Canadian Forces and other federal resources to assist with the rescue efforts.

Amid suggestions that community volunteers are ready to take matters into their own hands, rescuers will try “drastic” measures to reach possible survivors in a collapsed mall in the northern Ontario community of Elliot Lake.

Crews who were pulled from the Algo Centre Mall over safety fears will have another go at the structure relying on machinery, Fire Chief Paul Officer said. They are acting at the urging of the community and Mr. McGuinty.

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Why more than a dozen towns are considering hosting Canada’s high-level radioactive waste – by Tom Spears (Ottawa Citizen – December 16, 2011)


Who would want a pile of used fuel from nuclear reactors that will be radioactive for millennia? William Elliott does. Badly enough to fight for it.

The boss at the economic development corporation serving the Elliot Lake region sees the upside of something that usually provokes gut reactions of not-in-my-back-yard. “There’s the obvious economic impact of 700 to 1,000 permanent full-time jobs (and) $16 billion to $24 billion of direct investment,” he says.

“It’s going to be one of the biggest economic development projects in Canadian history.” Put that way, maybe it’s not so hard to see why Elliot Lake and its neighbours are campaigning to become the place where Canada buries all our high-level radioactive waste.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is looking for a site to sink thousands of tonnes of used reactor fuel forever, replacing the temporary storage that Canada has used for 60 years.

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Canadian energy sector marches to its own drummer – by Claudia Cattaneo (National Post – November 29, 2011)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Mr. Edwards said the strategy is shifting to direct
communication with the public to win “social licence”
from one that had been focused on targeting politicians
to enable them to develop appropriate policies.
(Claudia Cattaneo – Financial Post)

It’s a measure of how much the Canadian energy sector marches to its own drummer that Murray Edwards, one of its top investors and entrepreneurs, regards building pipelines to new markets and improving its image through better communication as the top issues facing it next year.

The next two? Project execution to achieve higher productivity and manage costs, and commodity prices. It’s telling that the challenges are associated with managing growth, in contrast to worries now consuming the market, such as the eurozone crisis and fears of another global downturn.

Opening new markets for Canada’s oil and improving communication efforts shot to the top of the industry’s to-do list for 2012 as a result of this month’s announcement by the United States to delay a decision on whether to allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast, said the influential billionaire, a leading investor and chairman or vice-chairman of companies such as oil and gas producer Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. and oil services firm Ensign Energy Services Inc.

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The tortured future of Elliot Lake – by Lloyd Tataryn (Saturday Night, June, 1976)

This article was orginally published in Saturday Night (a Canadian general interest magazine that ceased publication in 2005) in the June, 1976 issue.

“The conditions in Elliot Lake are not the best conditions to work in to survive a normal life span. If anybody does not like to go to the hospital with lung cancer, he should have a very close look at the Elliot Lake situation before he signs on as an employee of either one of the companies. We believe that the companies should not have the right to expose people to conditions that will cause bodily harm. There has to be a clean-up programme before we can definitely advise people to seek employment in Elliot Lake.” (Paul Falkowski, United Steel Workers of America, Environmental Representative – June 1976)

The uranium miners there are dying of cancer at three times the normal rate. But what can a single-industry town do about it? Close down? Or live with death?

His voice broke in mid sentence. His eyes were red-rimmed and he fought back tears.

“I could be healthy, still workin. Now I have dust plus cancer. And the family is all upside down.  Dad’s gonna die maybe today, maybe tomorrow, we don’t know.” His voice broke once again. “And that’s the way it looks like. It’s bad. It’s very bad for a family. Family’s more hurt than me. Cryin’, you know. Disaster.”

It was the type of interview that makes a documentary a success. It was also the type of interview that makes a journalist fell parasitic. One is pleased with having captured an extremely moving moment on tape. But one also feels exploitative for having the presumption to ask a dying man to spill his emotions into your microphone.

Here was a forty-four-year-old man who had spent fifteen years digging and blasting a living in the Elliot Lake uranium miners in northern Ontario. The work was back breaking, the kind of work that makes a man tough and hard. Miners a proud of the strong, vigorous image they project. They don’t cry in public. They don’t cry, that is, unless they are overwhelmed by events and their defences have been destroyed.

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Uranium: Political Baby’s Growing Pains [Elliot Lake History] – by R. M. Baiden (April 29, 1961)

This article was orginally published in Saturday Night (a Canadian general interest magazine that ceased publication in 2005) on April 29, 1961.

Uranium: Political Baby’s Growing Pains

Who is hiding what?

Canada’s uranium industry was fathered by the military necessity and mothered by politics. Deserted by its father in childhood, it now faces adolescence with only a mother  – at least until mother can find a new husband among the world’s nuclear power stations, most of which are not yet built.

But until this happy union, estimated at perhaps a decade away, the future of this ailing child is tied by political apron strings. More than that, both the form and the fact of its very existence depend upon political decisions to be made soon in Ottawa: How to allocate among the various producing mines the recently publicized agreement to sell 24,000,000 pounds of uranium to Britain.

At current shipping rates, this represents 13 months additional production for the three Canadian mining areas of Elliot Lake, Bancroft and Beaverlodge. Upon wise allocation of this order depends not only the ability of some mines to stay in business, but also the ability of the industry as a whole to take quick advantage of developing civilian demand in the 1970s.

It was undoubtedly, in recognition of the critical importance of this order that the federal government decided that allocation would be a political decision and not a decision by its agent, the Eldorado Mining and Refining Co. In short, allocations of this order, and possibly some reshuffling of existing contacts, must be based upon the national interest, not on strictly economic factors.

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