Sudbury MPP Jamie West on Ontario’s McIntyre Powder apology

Jamie West, NDP MPP for Sudbury, has been working with former mine workers and affected family members to secure an apology from the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to the 25,000 Ontario mine workers who were forced to breathe ‘McIntyre Aluminum Powder.’ West made the following statement after the government issued that apology:

“This is an important day in Ontario mining. Seventy-nine years ago today, despite expert evidence recommending against its use at the time, the Ontario government of the day sanctioned the first use of McIntyre Aluminum Powder for use on mine workers in Ontario.

During the 36 years that it was in use, more than 25,000 Ontario mine workers — primarily in uranium and gold mines — were forced to breathe a finely-ground aluminum dust known as “McIntyre Powder”. Before the start of each and every shift, the doors of the dry (the mining change room) were sealed shut. The ventilation was turned off, and a mist of fine aluminum dust was pumped inside. The dust would make the air turn black.

Locked into this room, the workers were told to breathe deeply so that the dust could coat their lungs and ‘protect them.’ If the workers refused, they were fired. For 36 years, mine workers were told that breathing Aluminum Powder would protect them from harm. Instead, many miners experienced immediate and long-term health effects.

That simply wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair to the 25,000 Ontario mine workers that were forced to breathe McIntyre Aluminum Powder. It wasn’t fair to their loved ones, their spouses, their children, their fathers, their mothers, and their friends. It simply wasn’t fair.

And so today we are here united as Members of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, 79 years after the first use of McIntyre Aluminum Powder and 36 years after its final use. We are here to tell you that we are sorry.

Nous sommes désolés. L’utilisation de la poudre McIntyre a été sanctionné par le gouvernement de l’Ontario. Ce n’était pas juste pour les vingt-cinq mille mineurs Ontariens. Ce n’était pas juste pour leurs amis et pour leurs familles. Nous sommes désolés.

We are sorry that between 1943 and 1979 more than 25,000 Ontario mine workers were forced to breathe McIntyre Aluminum Powder. We are sorry that the use of the McIntyre Aluminum Powder was supported and sanctioned by the Ontario government of the day. We are sorry that this happened to people who dedicated their lives and their work to the betterment of our province.

We are truly sorry. Nous sommes vraiment désolés.”


Ed Graham, former mine worker

“I put old shirt rags over my face to avoid the aluminum dust, but a supervisor caught me and told me to take that rag off my face. When I asked the supervisor about the aluminum dust, I was told, ‘Keep asking questions like that and you won’t be here very long.’”

Bill Ferguson, former mine worker

“At the start of each shift they would line our lungs with that aluminum dust before we went underground. The theory was that the silica and rock dust wouldn’t stick to your lungs and you’d cough up the aluminum at the end of your shift, but that didn’t work. They sprayed me with that for 18 years.”

Ontario NDP