The Accidental Underground: Death and Injury in Ontario’s Mining Industry
Thursday, Dec. 8, 1-2 p.m.
The history of Canada’s mining industry is littered with accidents, including mine collapses, dismemberment from machinery, and falls down mining shafts. While major coal mining disasters have received the majority of scholarly and popular historical attention due to the spectacular nature of methane explosions, this chapter will trace the “everyday” accidents that dominated the hard rock mining industry in Ontario. Using the annual accident reports of the Ontario Department of Mines, which contain a detailed description of every fatal mining accident that occurred in Ontario between 1892 and 1971, this paper analyzes the cause, and the issue of culpability, associated with these incidents. It will trace the constant tug-of-war between labour and management over production versus safety in the inherently risky environment of underground mines. Combining a narrative and data-driven approach, the paper highlights the tendency of mine managers to avoid any discussion of systemic safety issues, dismissing accidents as a product of worker carelessness or, failing that, an unavoidable cost of working underground.
Presented by MUN History Department Seminar Series