OHS Canada Magazine

Nova Scotia premier says no word on reopening of Donkin mine after meeting company

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December 8, 2023
By The Canadian Press

Health & Safety Donkin Mine Mining nova scotia

A group of miners. Photo: Adobe Stock

By Keith Doucette

The immediate future of Cape Breton’s Donkin coal mine remained murky Thursday following a meeting between company officials and Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston.

The underground operation has been shut down since the province imposed a stop-work order in response to a rockfall in July, and owner Kameron Coal Management Ltd., has since laid off its 130-member workforce.

Houston told reporters after the meeting that he didn’t get definitive word on the company’s next steps with regards to the province’s conditions for a reopening, but he added that he thinks there is a path forward.

“I believe they are giving serious consideration to reopening the mine,” he said. “They probably wouldn’t have come and talked to me if they weren’t.”

Company officials did not appear with the premier as he met with reporters.


The provincial Labour Department released a consultant report on Nov. 15 that concluded seasonal weather and humidity were key factors in several rockfalls at the mine.

The report by Andrew Corkum, a geological expert at Dalhousie University, said the mine can’t reopen until the owner updates the safety plan and improves the monitoring of roof stability in the mine’s tunnels. Those conditions are now requirements of the stop-work order. Corkum also said two access tunnels would need to be upgraded before the mine could safely resume operations.

Labour Department officials have said that once that work is completed, the mine can open in the winter. However, a third-party engineer with experience in mining and tunnelling must review the mine’s ground-control plan by February for Kameron Coal to be in full compliance.

Company officials said they are having discussions with experts who could be part of the required review, Houston said.

He said that Kameron Coal told him they thought his government took too long to appoint a consultant, a delay officials said is responsible for the shutdown lasting nearly five months. And while he sympathizes with the unemployed miners, Houston said safety is paramount and “we (government) have to do what we have to do.”

“People might not like how long it takes in certain situations but that doesn’t mitigate our responsibility to make sure that the miners are safe, so that is always our Number 1 focus,” he said.

Donkin resumed operations in September 2022 after it was shuttered in March 2020 amid slumping coal prices and roof collapses that led to repeated stop-work orders. The mine first opened in 2017 and is described by the province as the world’s only operating subsea coal mine.


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