Archive | Mining Labour Issues and History – Sudbury and Global

Powder in mines linked to disease – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – February 15, 2016)

Intake clinics to be held in Timmins in May could produce data showing a link between a deadly powder used in mines for more than 35 years and the incidence of neurological disease in miners.

United Steelworkers Local 6500 is working with Janice Martell of Elliot Lake on what she calls the McIntyre Powder Project, a campaign she began in 2014. Martell is convinced her father, Jim Hobbs of Massey, contracted Parkinson’s disease from the aluminum dust he breathed while working in Elliot Lake’s uranium mines.

Canisters of aluminum dust, produced by McIntyre Mine in Timmins, were sold to mining companies and used to fog dries or change rooms for miners as well as some areas underground. Continue Reading →

Coal miner black-lung disease resurgence in Queensland to face Senate inquiry – by Jonathan Hair (Australian Broadcasting Corporation – February 11, 2016)

A Senate inquiry will investigate the sudden reappearance of the deadly coal miners’ disease known as black lung.

Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, or black lung, is a condition caused by breathing in excessive levels of coal dust.

Until recently, it was thought to have been eradicated from Australia. But late last year, the ABC revealed the disease had made a comeback.

Six Queensland coal mine workers have recently been diagnosed with the deadly condition.  Several of these victims worked in mines in Queensland’s Bowen Basin. Continue Reading →

[Ontario] Province seeks input on proposals stemming from mining review – by Ben Leeson (Sudbury Star – November 28, 2015)

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

Ontario Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn says the provincial government intends to act on all recommendations by the Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review Final Report, beginning with a series of proposed amendments presented for consultation on Thursday.

Proposed amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Ac including the introduction of new requirements for mines and mining plants to conduct risk assessments and have formal traffic management programs, the strengthening of existing requirements for water management and ground control, and the updating of training requirements for surface diamond drill operators.

“What I think it is is proof positive that all the work that went into the mining review was time well-spent,” Flynn said. Continue Reading →

[Sudbury mining] Death casts pall over conference – by Harold Carmichael (Sudbury Star – October 25, 2015)

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

The death last week of a miner at Glencore’s Nickel Rim South Mine cast a shadow Sunday evening over the start of an international conference on mining safety which is now being held in Greater Sudbury – and in Canada for the first time ever.

Not only was a minute of silence observed by the speakers and more than 60 delegates on hand at the Vale Cavern at Science North, but the death of Richard Pigeau also drew mention in several speakers’ addresses, including one by Ontario Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn.

“Ontario is one of the safest jurisdictions in all of America in which to work and we know the mining industry continues to be one of the safest industries,” he said. “But it was brought home to us workers’ lives can be lost in a matter of seconds … It simply did not have to happen: Every workplace fatality is preventable. People in this room know that. People buy into that. And we need to spread the message.”

Pigeau, 54, who had more than 20 years of mining experience, was killed when he was struck by a piece of equipment on Oct. 20, according to the Ministry of Labour. The mine was shut down for three days as the investigation was conducted. Continue Reading →

GroundUp: Anglo American joins the silicosis fray – by Pete Lewis (Daily Maverick South Africa – October 21, 2015)

Lawyers for gold mining companies ERPM, DRD and Anglo American added their voices on Tuesday to those of their colleagues fighting the silicosis action in the South Gauteng High Court.

Lawyers for the miners are asking the three judges in the court to certify a class action which would enable them to claim damages from the mining companies as a class, instead of each sick former miner having to do so individually.

The application includes a request that 59 mineworkers who have silicosis and/or TB should be accepted as representatives of the wider class of miners affected by the disease and the dependents of deceased miners.

Lawyers for the mining companies are arguing that the class action should not be certified by the court.

Counsel for ERPM and DRD, Advocate Bruce Leech, said the Constitution acknowledged the right of people to join together in class actions in order to get access to the courts if they could not take action individually. Continue Reading →

GroundUp Op-Ed: Will South Africa’s gold miners get justice? – by Marcus Low (Daily Maverick South Africa – October 12, 2015)

The landmark silicosis class action lawsuit in South Africa has thrown up some similarities between the history of the country’s gold mines and the violent history of the rubber trade in the Congo. Over decades, South Africa’s gold mines systematically exposed their mostly poor and black workers to dangerous levels of silica dust knowing it would kill them.

In King Leopold’s Ghost, the historian Adam Hochschild uncovers the horrors committed in the Belgian Congo in the years before and after 1900. It is a history of slavery, murder and mutilation – anyone who’s seen the pictures of piles of cut-off hands cannot but be horrified by it.

Rather than just focusing on “the horror”, Hochschild zooms in on the courageous individuals who stood up against this cruelty. These are people like George Washington Williams, a black American journalist who travelled to the Congo in the late 1880s, and ED Morel, who dedicated much of his life to exposing the atrocities to the British public and to changing public opinion.

King Leopold’s Ghost recognises and bears witness to the atrocities in the Congo. Atrocities like these are too easily forgotten, too easily reduced to boring facts and figures. Continue Reading →

Sudbury study to examine mental health of miners – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – July 24, 2015)

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

A research project on the mental health of workers in the mining industry is exactly the type of study Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn would like to see more of in Ontario.

The three-year, $400,000 study, funded by Vale Ltd., is a partnership among the mining company, United Steelworkers and Laurentian University’s Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health (CROSH).

The goal of the study, called Mining Mental Health, is to collect information to develop strategies to promote strong mental health among workers in Vale’s Ontario operations.

Flynn paid his first visit to a mine earlier this year when he went underground at Vale’s Coleman Mine.

Travelling 5,000 feet below surface “was quite the experience for a city kid,” Flynn told about 100 people in the lobby of Laurentian’s Ben Avery building Thursday. Continue Reading →


(L to R) France Gélinas, MPP Nickel Belt; Jody Kuzenko, Director of Vale’s Ontario Production Services; Leo Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers; Dr. Michel Larivière, clinical psychologist and Associate Director at CROSH; Hon Kevin Daniel Flynn, Ontario Minister of Labour; Dr. Tammy Eger, Research Chair in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and Associate Professor in Laurentian’s School of Human Kinetics

(L to R) France Gélinas, MPP Nickel Belt; Jody Kuzenko, Director of Vale’s Ontario Production Services; Leo Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers; Dr. Michel Larivière, clinical psychologist and Associate Director at CROSH; Hon Kevin Daniel Flynn, Ontario Minister of Labour; Dr. Tammy Eger, Research Chair in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and Associate Professor in Laurentian’s School of Human Kinetics

SUDBURY, ON (July 23, 2015) – Today Vale and the United Steelworkers, in partnership with the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health (CROSH) at Laurentian University, announced a groundbreaking new research project on the topic of mental health in the mining industry.

The aim of the 3-year study, called ‘Mining Mental Health’, is to gain vital information in order to develop key strategies that promote the best possible mental health for workers at Vale’s Ontario Operations. In addition, this study will contribute substantially to the body of research to help others in the mining industry and similar sectors to develop evidence-based practices that effectively promote positive mental health. Continue Reading →

Bloodshed Seen If Strike Called at South African Gold Mines – by Paul Burkhardt (Blooomberg News – July 22, 2015)

A pay strike at South African gold companies could result in more violence at the mines, said Andrew Levy, a labor-relations consultant.

The Chamber of Mines, a lobby group representing companies including world No. 3 producer AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., and the four unions representing workers are “far apart” in wage talks, it said July 16. The labor groups are seeking an increase of at least 80 percent in entry-level pay and producers are offering 13 percent at most.

“I think there will be a strike,” most likely led by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which speaks for about 30 percent of the employees, Levy said. If operations continue with AMCU on strike, “there will be bodies and there will be bloodshed,” he said.

South African gold producers are looking to avoid a repeat of a strike that crippled platinum companies in the country last year, halting most local mines of the world’s three-biggest operators for five months. They also want to avert violence that resulted in at least 44 deaths around Lonmin Plc’s Marikana platinum assets in 2012. Continue Reading →

S. Africa’s Zuma to release Marikana mine massacre report – by AFP (Yahoo News – June 25, 2015)

President Jacob Zuma was on Thursday due to release the official report into the police killing of 34 South African striking workers at Marikana mine in 2012, his office said.

The report into the shooting was handed to the president on March 31, after more than two years of hearings plagued by delays.

Rights groups and lawyers representing the killed and injured miners have been clamouring since then for Zuma to make the document public.

The president’s office said the report would finally be published after he addresses the nation on public television on Thursday night. The August 16 shooting was the worst violence South Africa has witnessed since the advent of democracy in 1994.

Days after the killings, Zuma set up the Farlam Commission of Inquiry to investigate the events at Marikana, around 100 kilometres (60 miles) northwest of Johannesburg.

The commission was granted powers to suggest names of individuals to be criminally charged. But proceedings were plagued with delays from the start and the deadline was repeatedly extended. Continue Reading →

New South Africa mine union boss decries ‘apartheid’ wage system – by Ed Stoddard (Reuters U.S. – June 21, 2015)

WESTONARIA, SOUTH AFRICA – The newly elected head of South Africa’s biggest mine union said on Sunday that his members were still being paid “apartheid” wages, signaling a hard line ahead of gold sector wage talks due to start on Monday.

David Sipunzi, formerly a regional leader from the gold-producing Free State province, was elected general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) earlier this month, replacing veteran Frans Baleni.

The leadership shake up has come just ahead of what are expected to be tough negotiations in South Africa’s ailing gold sector, which is grappling with depressed prices, falling production and rising costs.

Speaking to Reuters ahead of a rally in the mining town of Westonaria west of Johannesburg, Sipunzi defended NUM’s demand for wage hikes of around 80 percent for its lowest-paid members, who make between 5,000 rand ($410) and 6,000 rand monthly.

“We expect them to meet our demands. Eighty percent of just over 5,000 rand is not too much. The CEOs are raking in millions. But the indications are that they are going to plead poverty,” he said. Continue Reading →

OPINION: South Africa: The Scandal of South Africa’s Sick Miners – by Pete Lewis (All – June 11, 2015)

Human rights lawyers have been engaged for ten years in a bid to secure massive damages for former gold miners who suffer from silicosis and TB. As the case heads for the courts, the mining industry is scrambling to offer its own and much less comprehensive solution.

Too sick to work, cared for by women and families who can barely scratch a living, hundreds of thousands of former gold miners number among the disabled, dying and dead victims of an inadequate compensation system.

This issue, brushed under the carpet during the apartheid era, has become public after 20 years of democracy, against all efforts by the mining companies to keep it buried.

Over the past century, South Africa developed a legislated system for the compensation of workers who are injured at work, or who contract an occupational disease, in line with conventions developed over time by the International Labour Organisation.

Such systems are supposed to provide workers (and their dependent spouses and children) with a lump sum or pension for permanent disability, and lost wages for temporary disability. They are also supposed to cover medical costs of treatment, care, and rehabilitation. Continue Reading →

S. Africa Plans $124 Million Payout for Lung-Diseased Miners – by Kevin Crowley (Bloomberg News – May 29, 2015)

South Africa plans 1.5 billion rand ($124 million) of payouts from a compensation fund for miners suffering from lung diseases that affect about 700,000 people, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said.

Companies including AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., the world’s third-biggest miner of the metal, are participating in the project rolled out by the Department of Health to unblock a backlog of 500,000 claims. Compensation will apply to sufferers of tuberculosis, silicosis, and other illnesses, Motsoaledi said. Workers from other countries are also eligible to apply, he said.

“Our goal is to compensate current and ex-mineworkers who have submitted valid and compensable claims,” he told reporters in Carletonville, a gold-mining town 86 kilometers (53 miles) west of Johannesburg. “I’m here to pay back the money.”

Silicosis, a lung disease caused by inhaling dust from mines, causes scar tissue in the lungs, increasing vulnerability to tuberculosis that can kill more than half of sufferers if not properly treated. South Africa is source of about a third of all gold yet produced globally and the continent’s biggest coal producer.

Separately, lawyers representing sufferers of silicosis say companies including AngloGold and Harmony Gold Mining Co. are to blame for workers catching the disease because they operated without adequate ventilation for the past 60 years. Continue Reading →

The 1959 Copper Strike: Local Event has National Ramifications – by John Hernandez (Copper – May 26, 2015)

The Voice of the Copper Corridor. [Arizona]

In 1959, Dwight D. Eisenhower was in the last year of his presidency. The dictator Fulgencio Batista fled Cuba as communist revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro took control of the island nation 90 miles from the United States. Alaska and Hawaii would become states. A little known actor, Clint Eastwood appeared on a new television series, Rawhide. Teenagers were saddened by “The Day the Music Died” when Buddy Holley, Richie Valens and the “Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson were killed in a plane crash in Iowa.

In the prospering mining town of San Manuel the contracts with the unions and the San Manuel Copper Corporation were set to expire June 30. Competing unions, the United Steelworkers of America and the International Union of Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers, were still battling each other to represent the workers.

Early in the year, smelter workers petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and asked that their union, the United Steelworkers of America, be recognized as the bargaining agent for San Manuel rather than Mine Mill. Mine Mill had defeated the Steelworkers in the 1956 elections. The election was challenged by the Steelworkers but their protest was denied by the NLRB.

Another unit of San Manuel Copper Corporation, the heavy equipment operators, joined with the smelter workers and asked that elections be held to determine which union would be the collective bargaining agent for the workers. Continue Reading →

UPDATE 3-Peru strike spares output at top copper and gold mines – by Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino (Reuters U.S. – May 18, 2015)

May 18 (Reuters) – Peru’s production of copper and gold was largely unaffected by a national strike on Monday as unionized workers declined to down tools for fear of losing their jobs and companies used replacements.

Walk-outs at some mines, however, might have curbed silver, tin and iron output, according to unions in Peru, the world’s third biggest copper, silver, zinc and tin producer and the seventh-ranked gold producer.

The strike, organized by the National Mining Federation that represents about 20,000 workers, aimed to press the government to tighten restrictions on firings and the use of contract workers.

But plans for an ambitious stoppage across Peru were upended after the government declared the strike unfounded and companies threatened to dismiss strikers or ordered contract workers to fill in, said federation head Ricardo Juarez.

Copper output from Peru’s four top producers, Antamina, Southern Copper, Cerro Verde and Antapaccay, was normal, union bosses at the mines said. The mines together produced about a million tonnes of the red metal last year, or more than three quarters of Peru’s total copper output. Continue Reading →