The Arrogance of Inco – by Val Ross (Originally Published in May 1979 – Part 4 of 4)
June 30, 2010 in Canadian/International Media Resource Articles, Inco History, Vale
“The Arrogance of Inco” was originally published as the cover story in the May, 1979 issue of Canadian Business. Reporter Val Ross, who died in 2008, spent two and a half months researching and writing this lengthy expose of the then Inco Limited. It has become a “classic must read” for anyone wishing to understand the often bitter history between Sudbury and the company that defined the Canadian mining industry.
4-Troubles in the Province of Ontario
Nineteen hundred and fifteen was a rather wet year in the Sudbury district. The sulphur dioxide fumes from the open-air roasting heaps hung in sickening mists and low clouds over the region. In increasing numbers the local farmers brought damage suits against the nickel producers, Mond and International Nickel. In desperation the nickel companies turned to the Ontario Ministry of Lands, Forests and Mines for protection. They begged the government to remember nickel’s contribution to the defence of the Empire (this was the year before the Deutschland’s two trips to pick up nickel supplies for Germany).
Charging opportunism, they protested, “Lands are being taken up and a pretence of farming made…in the hope and the expectation that the same may be damaged or appear to be damaged so that a claim against the company may be made.”
The Ontario government agreed with the nickel men’s interpretation of events and dealt with the “smoke farmers,” as Inco dubbed the victims, accordingly. Whole townships near Copper Cliff and Sudbury were withdrawn from sale to settlers. When the remaining lots changed hands, “smoke easement clauses” were written in which denied the buyers the right to sue mining companies. These clauses, reviewed in 1942 during another spate of farmers’ and residents’ complaints, have been retained. To this day, no owner of Sudbury real estate has the right to sue mining companies for property damage.
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