ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Living And Dying Hard: Working In Newfoundland’s Fluorspar Mines

Updated on October 13, 2014
Black Duck Mines 1933
Black Duck Mines 1933 | Source
Iron Spring Mine
Iron Spring Mine
Alcan Mines 1960
Alcan Mines 1960 | Source

Health Concerns Grow

The fluorspar mines were declared to be the largest in North America. Soon not one, but two companies were operating in the region. One of these was the American Newfoundland Fluorspar Company (1937). They sold out to Aluminum Company of Canada (ALCAN). They, in turn, operated under the name the Newfoundland Fluorspar Company (Newfluor). While work was steadily available, health concerns were beginning to emerge.

In the summer of 1939, the employees of the Corporation were coming down with severe stomach ailments. While not all of the currently 100 workers were affected, the majority were. The miners reacted. They formed the St. Lawrence Miners and Labourers Protective Union (SLMLPU). The leader, interestingly enough, was not a miner, but a local merchant - Patrick Aylward. He prepared a slate of demands to be presented to the company in December 1939. They included concerns on the water.

The illness had arisen, as the Department of Public Health and Welfare stated, from the water. It was highly polluted. The SLMLPU wanted the company to improve their drinking water. The union also requested further changes to make better other working conditions that endangered the lives of the miners. The company’s response was to essentially ignore any health concerns and, instead, play Father Christmas by giving them all employees a wage increase of 10 percent.

In January 1940, the indication that the cause of illness in St. Lawrence was the result of the mine came up in health reports made by the Department of Public Health and Welfare. Specifically, they mentioned silicosis. It was certainly true for nearby copper mines in Buchan. It was hypothesized the same was happening in St. Lawrence. These reports were ignored by the company as the mining began to boom during the years of World War II.

However, the War also gave workers the confidence to express their concerns by going out on strike. War and booming mines meant little fear of being fired and left to die in poverty. They expressed their concerns vocally and openly in 1940 by going out on strike. In a later inquiry, Aylward told the magistrate in charge that the reasons for the strike were:

  • lack of clean drinking water

  • lack of any type of sanitation facilities

  • inadequate mine ventilation which had resulted in several cases of suffocation

  • hoisting equipment that was substandard and, therefore extremely dangerous

  • overwork to such an extent, it reduced men to shells

    Evidence was also produced as to the company’s attitudes towards the workers. When a man was negatively affected by the company’s practices, it simply replaced him and continued on in the same fashion.

    A manager, Donald Poynter, defending the company, never denied the poor sanitary conditions. He did, however, try to shift blame to the workers’ by stating the same type of conditions were typical of their homes. He said:

    “Sanitary arrangements, drinking water arrangements, and conditions under which men work are in my opinion equal to, if not better than they have in their own homes. When the time comes when St. Lawrence will take an interest in its own sanitation and drinking water and show evidence of this interest in their own homes, this Company will gladly give them the equal in their working conditions.”

    Fortunately, the company could not ignore the union as easily. A 1910 act in British ruled Newfoundland allowed it to exist even if it did not guarantee the company had to recognize or treat with it. The leadership was ousted - Aloysius Turpin, a rank-and- file worker took over, the name changed and registered as the St. Lawrence Workers Protective Union (SLWPU) on March 15, 1941. Two days later, the miners at both the St. Lawrence Corporation and Newfluor went out.

    The dispute, purportedly about whether the workers could have St. Patrick’s Day off, only lasted two days. It was, however, only a mask for more serious issues affecting the health and safety of the workers. The disputes between company and the union continued to seethe, slashing through the surface throughout 1941 until the Commission of Government was forced to intervene.

    This was not the end of the problems facing both the Union and the workers. The ongoing negligence of the company continued to produce a deadly harvest of industrial disease.


Sources:

Elliott Leyton. Dying Hard. Industrial Carnage in St. Lawrence Newfoundland. Boulder Publications, Newfoundland, 1975, 1978.

Richard Rennie, “The Historical Origins of an Industrial Disaster: Occupational Health and Labour Relations at the Fluorspar Mines, St. Lawrence, Newfoundland, 1933-1945,” Labour/Le Travail, 55 (Spring 2005), 107-42.

St. Lawrence Heritage http://www.heritage.nf.ca/society/stlawrence.html

St. Lawrence Fluorspar Mine Closer To ReopeningCbc News online June 16, 2011. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/st-lawrence-fluorspar-mine-closer-to-re-opening-1.1120349

http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?id=exhibit_home&fl=0&lg=English&ex=767

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)