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Today marks 38th anniversary of the Falconbridge Mine tragedy

Sulo Korpela, Richard Chenier, Daniel Lavallee and Wayne St. Michel, all members of Mine Mill Local 598, lost their lives when a seismic event caused a deadly collapse
Unifor national representative Richard Paquin places a carnation at the memorial at Mine Mill's campground on Richard Lake as part of the Workers' Memorial Day ceremony in 2018. (Heidi Ulrichsen/

On June 20, 1984, four men lost their lives in what has become to be known as the Falconbridge Mine Tragedy. 

As it has done every year for the past 38 years, Mine Mill Local 598 Unifor pays tribute to the workers who died that day and to all workers whose safety, health and lives are put on the line every day.

In June 1984, a seismic event shook Northeastern Ontario, leading to a deadly collapse at Falconbridge Mine.

Three miners — Sulo Korpela, Richard Chenier and Daniel Lavallee, all members of Mine Mill Local 598 — lost their lives instantly in the collapse. Wayne St. Michel was left trapped below surface, calling for help as his desperate rescuers attempted to dig him out with their bare hands.

Though they could hear him and he could hear them, he died mere minutes before he could be freed.

The following year, the first Workers Memorial Day was held to honour the four men lost in this terrible tragedy. This June 20th marks the 38th anniversary.

Eric Boulay, president of the Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers’ Union Local 598 UNIFOR, told before the 2021 ceremony that since that first memorial nearly 40 years ago, the event has evolved.

“The memorial has since evolved and now honours all fallen, sick and injured workers, with a focus on a future that is free from these types of events. We strive for a day when no one ever becomes sick or injured in the workplace,” Boulay said.

Mine Mill and other unions are part of several governmental groups that help change the rules in the mining industry. Reporting directly to the Minister of Labour, they track accidents across the province, recommend changes and rules that are strict and properly implemented. It’s the only way to prevent further fatalities.

Occupational illnesses are another concern. Many health conditions arise from working in the mines and workers are dedicated to fighting for those who pass away from these illnesses, too. 

Fatalities, workplace injuries and occupational illnesses still occur. In the past few years around 1,000 people died from workplace injuries. In 2020 in Ontario, almost 200 died due to occupational illnesses. 

Around the world, every 30 seconds someone dies because of workplace injury or illness. 

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Last year, the event was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can watch the ceremony below: