A St. Lawrence miner mucking fluorite ore, circa 1970. ((Courtesy of the N.L. Department of Mines and Energy))

The provincial government is set to announce that an act that withheld compensation from some people who became sick after working at a deadly fluorspar mine in southern Newfoundland will be amended to include all mine employees.

The fluorspar mine operated in St. Lawrence, on the Burin Peninsula from the early 1930s to the late 1970s.

In the1950s, people there began to question the higher-than-normal rate of lung cancer among mine workers.

It was eventually determined that exposure to radon gas in the mine was making workers sick.

Provincial legislation enacted in the early 1970s ensured that everyone who became sick after working at the mine was automatically eligible for workers' compensation.

But in the early 1980's, that legislation was quietly amended.

The changes meant people who worked above ground were excluded from compensation.

CBC News has learned that government officials will be in St. Lawrence Wednesday to announce legislative changes to the act that compensates mine workers.


St. Lawrence Fluorspar Mine circa 1960.

The changes will ensure above-ground workers at the mine - and their survivors - will be eligible for compensation if it can be shown that the workers developed an industrial disease while working at the mine.

That's something above-ground mine workers and their survivors have sought for decades.

Sources say Grand Bank MHA Darin King, who is the minister responsible for Human Resources, Labour and Employment, and Leslie Galway of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission of Newfoundland and Labrador will make the announce Wednesday afternoon at St. Lawrence's municipal building.

The sources said many of the people who have fought compensation and were denied it have already died.

Author and retired Memorial University of Newfoundland professor Elliot Leyton wrote two books about what happened to St. Lawrence fluorspar miners, after interviewing many of them.

"I remember one man spent the entire day and night leaning over a chair because it was the only way he could breathe. As he said, 'nobody has suffered more than me, except for Jesus.' My God he was right. These people went through hell," he told CBC News Tuesday.