At least 10 workers involved in the cleanup of the Sa Dena Hes lead-zinc mine near Watson Lake, Yukon, have been diagnosed with lead poisoning.

Yukon Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board inspectors issued a stop-work order July 17 after receiving medical reports indicating lead poisoning in some of the workers.


Yukon's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Hanley says exposure to lead dust can easily be avoided with protective equipment.

Workers were allowed back on the mine site two days later. Workers involved in the dismantling of the mill were prohibited from coming back until July 23.

Yukon's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Hanley says exposure to lead dust can easily be avoided with protective equipment.

He says he is not sure yet if the workers were exposed by breathing in the dust or by ingesting it.

"If they were not wearing adequate respiratory protection, they could inhale lead dust and they could get the exposure that way," he said.

"Or the other way, as mentioned, you can get lead on clothes and on fingers where you can actually swallow the lead and then it gets into the gastro-intestinal system and into the blood that way." 

The Sa Dena Hes mine operated for 14 months between 1991 and 1992. Remediation of the site started last year.

The Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board would not comment on the severity of the cases.

The clean-up of the mine has since resumed.

Teck Resources, which is handling outdoor reclamation work, says it's monitoring the situation. JDS, the company which is dismantling the mill, could not be reached for comment.

The WCHSB has asked all companies involved in the project to submit the names of all the workers who came to the site.