The Canadian Shield, British Columbia, Nunavut and the island of Newfoundland are the places where gold is most found naturally in Canada. Some of the major gold mining camps were established in northern Ontario, including Timmins, Porcupine, Red Lake, Kirkland Lake and Larder Lake during the 1900s.
About 90% of Canada’s gold production comes from open-pit and underground mines. Thousands of miners go deep below the surface of the earth every day to mine gold. But it’s a difficult and dangerous job down there.
Tough and Dirty Job
Macassa (Kirkland Lake), the deepest gold mine in Canada, is one of the world’s richest gold mines. Miners work 5,400 to 5,600 feet below the earth’s crust. Located 300 km north of Sudbury, the temperature deep down at this part of the earth is literally suffocating. It’s a technically challenging job at this far down distance from the surface. Once the miners step out of the lift through the shaft to begin their shift, they drip with sweat in their boiler suit, rubber boots, and hard hat. Also, the gravity makes them feel a lot heavier than their weight, causing them trouble in moving and walking.
The Hard Part of Gold Extraction Isn’t Just the Rocks
The vast majority of gold production is currently derived from hard rock mining. In this process, gold is extracted through deep tunnels or shafts dug in the ground to collect the rock where it’s originally deposited. Miners drill holes in tunnel roofs and fill them with explosives to blast the rock face in order to reach the source of the ore. The blast breaks the ore into rubbles which are then transported out to the surface by trucks, chutes, and lifts. It takes a ton of rocks to get an ounce of gold! One shift of crew performs drills and plants explosives and the other shift transports the blasted rocks to the surface.
While geological formations, toxic elements, and seismic activity are some natural hazards associated with this job, accidents from explosions, cave-ins, and equipment failures are common hazards that make mining a dangerous profession.
Miners are exposed to dust particles that arise from blasting and drilling which cause various types of lung diseases. They’re also exposed to radon, a radioactive odourless gas that is significantly found in gold, uranium, and other mines in Canada. Radon causes lung cancer. Welding fumes and mercury lead to severe poisoning over time. Injuries from shoveling, slips and falls are common underground. If miners get cut down there, they bleed faster because of the pressure underground. Since mining produces a lot of noise that emanates from equipments and explosives, it can lead to temporary/permanent hearing loss and speech interference.
However, gold mines in Canada are incorporating modern safeguards like better ventilation systems, operational techniques, better machinery, respirators, ear plugs, etc. These measures have successfully led to an improved scenario for the gold diggers by lowering risks, fatalities and health hazards.