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Nova Scotia Labour Department clears Donkin coal mine for year-round operation

Nova Scotia's Department of Labour has cleared the underground coal mine for year-round operation after an eight-month shutdown due to roof falls in the main access tunnel. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)
Nova Scotia's Department of Labour has cleared the underground coal mine for year-round operation after an eight-month shutdown due to roof falls in the main access tunnel. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia's Labour Department has cleared the underground coal mine in Donkin for year-round operation, eight months after it was shut down due to roof falls in the main access tunnel.

Heavy rock fell down twice in one week last July. The first incident was a small one that was cleared up in a couple of days.

But the second was larger and caused the province to issue a lengthy stop-work order, after officials determined that it had been a "relatively close call" with miners having passed through that part of the tunnel about 90 minutes before it happened.

A mine expert hired by the province has said the mine is subject to roof falls, particularly when underground humidity is higher.

Dalhousie University engineering professor Andrew Corkum said a history of the Donkin mine shows mining is safest during the winter months, when humidity is lowest.

The province was waiting for an independent engineer's report on mine owner Kameron Coal's safety plans related to humidity.

'Zero tolerance' for safety issues

In a brief news release Wednesday, the province said it had reviewed the engineer's report on the company's plans and it could restart the mine if it wishes to do so.

It also said the mine is rigorously inspected under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and underground mining regulations.

"We have made it clear to Kameron Coal that we have zero tolerance for non-compliance with the Act and we will not hesitate to act if there are concerns about workplace safety," the Department of Labour said.

"Although there are risks associated with underground mining, we want miners who choose to work underground to be safe. No matter what you choose to do for a living, please work safe and know the department is here to help.

"Please contact us at 1-800-9Labour if you need safety advice or support."

The province declined to comment and no one from Kameron Coal was immediately available for comment.

James Edwards, deputy mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and a member of the mine's community liaison committee, said the announcement is good news.

CBRM deputy mayor James Edwards, a member of the Donkin mine's community liaison committee, says he's waiting to find out what Kameron Coal's plans are for reopening the mine.
CBRM deputy mayor James Edwards, a member of the Donkin mine's community liaison committee, says he's waiting to find out what Kameron Coal's plans are for reopening the mine.

CBRM deputy mayor James Edwards, a member of the Donkin mine's community liaison committee, said reopening the mine is good news for workers. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"It's certainly welcome news within the community, as far as the miners and the mine is concerned," he said.

"It comes as really no surprise. The mine was confident that they would be able to adhere to the Corkum report pretty easily."

Edwards said he doesn't know how quickly the mine operator can recall its workers and said he expects a committee meeting will be called soon so the community can find out what Kameron Coal's plans are.

"They've gone through the exercise of completing the two phases from the Corkum report and they passed both phases, so it would seem reasonable to me that the reopening of the mine is imminent, but I can't speak for Kameron, that's for darn sure."

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