OHS Canada Magazine

No word on resumption of work at Cape Breton coal mine after go-ahead by province

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March 14, 2024
By The Canadian Press

Health & Safety

Photo: ASTA Concept/Adobe Stock

It is still unclear whether a Cape Breton coal mine, closed eight months ago because of rockfalls, will reopen after receiving permission from the province this week to resume year-round production.

Morien Resources Corp., which has a royalty stake in the Donkin mine, issued a news release Thursday saying that any potential reopening requires more than the Nova Scotia government’s decision to lift a stop-work order.

“Morien is of the opinion that any potential return to production … will be contingent, in part, on improving certain regulatory-related processes that ensure long-term, stable production,” the company said.

Morien wasn’t specific but said it was working with the mine’s owner, Kameron Coal, to resume production.

“We will provide further updates to its shareholders and investors as to the status of operations at the mine as they become available.”


The underground mine has been closed, and 130 workers laid off, since a July 15 roof fall, which followed a smaller roof fall on July 9.

The Labour Department said its priority is worker safety. Spokeswoman Monica MacLean said there has been constant communication with the mine’s owners to make sure the company understands its obligations.

“The department identified experts who we can access more quickly in the future if we need to consult on safety matters,” MacLean said. “We expect this will streamline processes and maintain oversight of this complex and heavily regulated worksite.”

On Wednesday, the department lifted a stop-work order after it said a third-party consultant had reviewed the mine’s plan to manage humidity, which affects roof stability in the warmer months.

That review was the second of two compliance hurdles the mine had to pass in order to be cleared to operate year-round.

After giving the mine the green light to proceed, the department said there would be “zero tolerance” for non-compliance and that its safety inspectors would continue to exercise “strong oversight” at the work site.

James Edwards, deputy mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and a member of the mine’s community liaison committee, said he hadn’t heard any word from Kameron Coal about its immediate intentions.

“The ball is squarely in Kameron’s court; however, it isn’t a slam dunk because they have that permission from the province,” said Edwards. “There is still the regulatory process.”

He said the owner is looking for some kind of assurance that the mine won’t be shut down again for months at a time if there are future problems that aren’t deemed severe.

“Do I see that as a sticking point? Yes I do,” said Edwards, who added that he’s still optimistic a solution can be found soon for the mine, which he says is important to the local economy.

The Labour Department has said there have been 32 roof falls at Donkin since February 2017 with no injuries reported.

A geological expert who studied the rockfalls concluded last fall that seasonal weather and humidity affect roof stability at the underground operation. Andrew Corkum concluded that mudstone rock in the roof is susceptible to weakening under damp conditions, most prevalent in the spring and summer.

The Labour Department required the owner to reinforce the roof and improve the monitoring system in the mine’s tunnels. As well, the province indicated in December that the mine could reopen but needed to meet the second phase of safety requirements by the end of February.

Described by Nova Scotia as the world’s only operating subsea coal mine, Donkin opened in 2017 but was shuttered in March 2020 amid slumping coal prices and roof collapses that led to repeated stop-work orders. It resumed operations in September 2022.


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