The American company that owns the Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton has begun hiring a new workforce, and community excitement around the prospect of renewed production is revving up.
Cline Group has created online job postings for several positions, including underground machine operators, a foreman, and mechanical/electrical mine technicians. The jobs are advertised as being full time, with a pay range of $30 to 35 an hour.
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Geoff MacLellan said he understands that many people believe this is a long time coming, citing past generations of coal miners on both sides of his family.
"I'm ecstatic," he said. "It's a tremendous part of our history from a labour side and economic side. I was sad to see [the mine] go a number of years ago."
Bill Phillips, a retired miner, said it's better late than never.
"They need it around here, there's nothing else around here. It was the backbone of the whole community [to] mining — whole of Cape Breton, North Sydney, New Waterford and Glace Bay, it was."
Old mine, new methods
Cline Group bought 75 per cent of the Donkin mine from Glencore Xstrata PLC last December.
But, now that the mine's future is taking shape, there will be a few changes to how business will be run.
"Certainly, it'll be a different process and a different environment since we last mined coal on the island," MacLellan said. "It's a good thing for economic development overall. [It's] a return to coal in a different manner."
The "different manner" concerns with how mining processes have changed since Donkin was last in production.
"It's not as labour intensive back in the days when we were children and our families work the coal mines," explained MacLellan. "There were thousands of people underground. … Now, it's very technical, very instrument based," he said.
Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg MLA Alfie MacLeod said Nova Scotia Power is waiting on the word to test burn the coal.
"There's a potential here having a power supply in Nova Scotia with a stable supply of fuel which could be from the Donkin Mine," MacLeod said. "NS Power would actually be buying coal in Canadian dollars, rather than American dollars in the open market."
Safety being a priority on any production scale, MacLellan said he can vouch for Cline Group's methods and processes.
"It's very safe, very protective, and very mechanical."
MacLellan said reopening the mine will be a careful process, with Cline Group hiring a workforce of 90 to 120 people to start. The company will then assess the quality of the coal as production begins.