Saturday, January 12, 2008


Denison Mines, Elliot Lake

I was employed at Denison Mines in Elliot Lake from 1978 to 1991. For most of those 13 years I worked at #1 shaft. When I first hired on I was a Dux truck driver on the service crew and one of only maybe a dozen guys who worked at 1 shaft who were company guys. The rest were contractors; CM , Powertel and Beaumier Construction. They were building the new conveyor system and my job was to haul rockbolts , screening and conveyor roller assemblies from the station to the job. I also hauled powder to the various magazines in the 1 shaft area.At that time my shift bosses were George Foy (now passed away) and Daryl and Brad Rogers. Later I worked for Jack McWilliams and others when I was the pipeman/pumpman. I was injured in a fall in the spill drive and spent a few months off. I then came back to work for Mike Murphy on the construction crew. Later I put in for, and got, a job as forklift operator at #2 shaft underground garage. after a while I decided that I’d try surface for a while and worked in the crusher for a while and then as dispatch clerk for Jake Seidel.

I took the voluntary layoff in 1991.

Rock Bolter

For the better part of the time that I worked at Denison I also worked part-time for the Elliot Lake Standard. I took the layoff and went to work for the paper fulltime. I was pretty active with the Steelworkers and was steward and then chief steward. I certainly wasn’t a pushover for the company – but I must say that during my career at Denison I was never ever given a hard time. I did get a warning slip (the only one I was to ever receive) when I told a shift boss to F**k **f. I thing that the biggest thing that strikes me when I think back to those days, was the incredible variety of people that worked there.

Artists rendition of Number 2 shaft Denison Mines

I knew men who worked on the jack leg and in their off time collected butterflies and moths and would have been considered as experts. I knew men who were former school teachers and I knew a defrocked priest who worked on one of the rockbreakers. One man I knew who worked underground as a diamond driller had been in his former life, a fairly well known poet in his native Hungary before the Russians invaded.

Underground Mechanics Garage

I used to love to hunt and fish, and I wasn’t alone. Just before moose hunting season there was a big rush of guys trying to get a week off. A lot of the guys waited and dreamed of the time when they would qualify for three weeks holidays, so that they could take the family on a vacation in the summer, and head to the bush for a week with the buddies in the fall.

But mining is a serious business. During the mining history of the Elliot Lake camp (1955 to 1996) better than 130 men, company men, and contractor’s surface and underground were fatally injured. Pretty well anyone who has ever worked there would have the memory of some friend or acquaintance that lost their life or were badly injured.

Not that the Elliot Lake mines were any more hazardous than any other underground operation in other parts of the country, it’s just that mining is by its very nature a rough business – and one that demands very special people.