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Cape Breton coal mine closed by roof falls allowed to resume year-round operations

HALIFAX — A Cape Breton coal mine that had been ordered to cease operations after two roof falls last summer is being permitted to resume year-round production.

The underground operation at the Donkin 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 announcement today from the Nova Scotia Labour Department says a third-party consultant has reviewed a plan to deal with humidity that affects roof stability in the warmer months and concluded a stop-work order can be lifted.

It was the second of two hurdles the mine had to pass to reopen 12 months a year. 

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 mudstone rock in the roof is susceptible to weakening under damp conditions, most prevalent in the spring and summer.

Kameron Coal did not respond to requests for comment on whether it intends to resume operations at the mine.

The province’s release says, “the company can now reopen for year-round operation if it chooses to do so. It is up to the employer to further communicate its intentions around reopening and how it will keep workers safe.”

The province first indicated in December that the mine could reopen but stipulated then that Kameron Coal also had to meet the second phase of safety requirements by the end of February. 

The Donkin mine first opened in 2017 and is described by the province as the world’s only operating subsea coal mine. It 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 news release said provincial inspectors will continue with “strong oversight” and “rigour” in overseeing the work site. 

“We have made it clear to Kameron Coal that we have zero tolerance for non-compliance … and we will not hesitate to act if there are concerns about workplace safety.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2024.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press


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