Giant Mine: Books Book on blast gets go-ahead

by Janet Smellie
Northern News Services

NNSL (OCT 04/96) - It may stir up some bad feelings and get some backs up, but that's what freedom of the press is all about.

Dying for Gold: The Inside Story of the Yellowknife Giant Mine, a manuscript about the 1992 strike at Giant mine and the deadly bomb blast that killed nine miners, has been accepted by publisher HarperCollins.

Veteran Northern journalist Lee Selleck and Francis Thompson, a former Yellowknifer reporter, spent the last four years researching and writing the 400-page book.

"We got a high level of information from all sides of the dispute, including company executives, Pinkerton security guards, union representatives, both federal and territorial government officials and the RCMP," said Selleck.

Peggy Witte, the owner of Giant Mine, was interviewed by both reporters during the dispute but she refused to be interviewed when they made a joint request for the book.

Selleck, who considers the book to be "a story of a lifetime," hopes to have it on the shelves by May.

"Some people might be shocked by our book. I think more than anything people will be surprised. If we wrote this at the time of the dispute people would have accused us of writing fiction," Selleck said.

He added the pair conducted more than 500 interviews, including one with the miner convicted of killing the nine men, Roger Warren, at Manitoba's Stoney Mountain penitentiary.

(Warren has appealed his conviction. A hearing is scheduled for May 20, 1997.)

Selleck, who has a degree in literature from the University of Dallas, said the collaboration also saw the pair make 50 requests under the federal Access to Information Act.

While the RCMP had initially considered sending the pair 5,000 pages of requested material, only 2,000 pages were released. Selleck and Thompson have appealed and Information Commissioner John Grace is investigating.

Dying for Gold will be the second book to be published about the labor dispute and murder investigation.

The Third Suspect, published last year, was written by two reporters from the XXEdmonton Journal.

A television movie, Giant Mine, has also been produced and will air on CBC this fall.

"I don't feel there's any competition here with the other book or even with the movie. We're telling a much more complete story. We did a great deal more research and, in more cases than not, we reveal our sources," said Selleck.

His collaborator, Thompson, who now lives in Montreal, says the book offers the first serious behind-the-scenes glimpse as to what happened.

"For me, it's been especially exciting to see that it's actually going to be released, and not just disappear somewhere," said Thompson.

"Being here in Montreal, a lot of my friends don't know too much about the North, or what happened. I think this is an issue of importance anywhere in Canada."

Thompson said that, while the book may cause emotional debate to resurface in Yellowknife, it may also help many people understand what went on.

"The idea is not to be exploitive of the emotions raised. The idea was much more to try to explain why it happened. The hows and whys of it never really became public. This should help."