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The Work of Underground Miners

Black-and-white photograph of the intersection of three roads inside a mine. There are two railroad tracks on the ground and two men pose in front a drill machine and a steel structure.

Underground work at Elder mine in Évain.

While not everyone from Rouyn and Noranda worked in mines, the job of miner has always been quite popular. During its 50 years of operation, Noranda Mines employed 2000 workers on average.

Front cover of a book where it is written Des risques, des mines et des hommes, la perception du risque chez les mineurs de fond de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue, which can be translated by Risks, mines and men: risk perception of Abitibi-Témiscamingue’s miners. The author’s name Sylvain Beaupré and publishing house Presses de l’Université du Québec are also mentioned. There is a picture of a man wearing a miner’s helmet on his head and holding a metal rod in his hands.

Front cover of the book Des risques, des mines et des hommes by Sylvain Beaupré.

Interview with anthropologist Sylvain Beaupré on the work of underground miners:

Listen to the interview (in French only) and view the transcript

In the 1920s, in Rouyn and Noranda’s early days, the work of underground miners was particularly hazardous. Out of the total of 292 fatalities in the area between 1925 and 1950, 59 occurred in the Horne mine. In addition to risking serious injuries, miners had difficult working conditions—blinding dust, inadequate ventilation, overwhelming heat and ever-present danger—which in the long run had a serious impact on their health and caused “industrial diseases”. It is mostly thanks to union efforts, put forth after a number of serious accidents, that security would improve in mines from 1940 on

“Some people, by no means all of them, were particularly heartless. As someone who weighed 130 lbs, I remember working with another guy who weighed 225 lbs, and he tried to get me killed to come off as the better man.”

Mr. Rémi Jodouin, 1976.

Interview with Rémi Jodouin about the working conditions of miners in the 1930s :

Black-and-white photograph of two miners operating a drill mounted to the ground and roof with metal rods. The men wear rubber boots and a helmet with a light.

Two Minors in the Depths of the Earth.

Listen to the interview (in French only) and view the transcript

Operating a mine requires many tradesmen: Labourers, drillers, haulagemen, and so on. While salaries varied based on the type of mining work, an underground miner made $0.60 an hour in 1930. A decade later, the hourly rates were $0.63. Finally, in 1949 the average wage was increased to $1.06 an hour. In contrast lumberjacks’ wages dropped significantly in the same period. In 1925, they were paid $60 a month which decreased to $40 in 1929 and then $26 in 1933.

Colour photograph of four artifacts on a wooden box.

Equipment used by miners.

« Le festival des mineurs », a song by Réal V. Benoit:

Album cover of Trésor Retrouvé by Réal V. Benoit on which we can see his face.

Album cover of Trésors Retrouvés by Réal V. Benoit.

 Listen to the interview (in French only) and view the transcript

For more details :

Benoît-Beaudry Gourd, Mines et syndicats en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, 1910-1950, Rouyn-Noranda, Collège de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue, 1981, p. 68 to 72.

Guy Gaudreau, dir., L’histoire des mineurs du nord ontarien et québécois, Sillery, Septentrion, 2003, p. 48.

Odette Vincent, dir., Histoire de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Québec, IQRC, 1995, p. 305 to 308