Nova Scotia

'He loved coal mining': Tributes flow for billionaire owner of Donkin coal mine

Chris Cline, the U.S. billionaire whose company Kameron Collieries owns the underground coal mine in Donkin, N.S., died in a helicopter crash off the Bahamas on Thursday.

Glace Bay MLA remembers Chris Cline as 'an amazing person' who was 'a coal miner through and through'

Chris Cline, whose company Kameron Collieries owns the Donkin coal mine, died in a helicopter crash off the Bahamas on Thursday. (Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch via Associated Press)

The tributes flowed on Friday for a U.S. billionaire whose company owns the underground coal mine in Donkin, N.S.

Chris Cline, 61, died in a helicopter crash on Thursday.

Police in the Bahamas say seven people died, including Cline, in the crash off Grand Cay.

Shannon Campbell, vice-president of the Donkin mine, said Cline, from West Virginia, was "very connected to the Donkin mine and spent a lot of time in Cape Breton and his presence will be missed."

Nova Scotia Business Minister Geoff MacLellan, the MLA for Glace Bay, said he met Cline several times.

MacLellan said Cline fit right in with Cape Bretoners, who have a long history of coal mining.

Geoff MacLellan, the Liberal MLA for Glace Bay and Nova Scotia's Minister of Business, says Cline fit right in with Cape Bretoners, who have a long history of coal mining. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"It was a perfect fit for both of us, for Chris and for Cape Breton," said MacLellan.

"He loved coal. He loved coal mining, and it meant a lot that he was investing in an area that did what he did."

'A coal miner through and through'

MacLellan said investing in the Donkin mine was a risk, but he said Cline saw the potential for an operation that would run for years.

"He was an amazing person," MacLellan said.

"He was a coal miner through and through, like no one I've met before. Despite building a large operation, where it was more of a corporate structure rather than him being in the mine every day, he still loved to mine coal."

Paul Carrigan, general manager of the Port of Sydney Development Corp. and chair of the mine's community liaison committee, called Cline's death "very unfortunate."

"He's been in town a few times, but I never had an opportunity to meet him," Carrigan said.

"I do talk to the employees periodically and particular management. They say he was quite a down-to-earth gentleman."

The controversial Donkin coal mine has been operating at reduced capacity since January after a series of roof falls in the subsea slopes. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The controversial mine has been operating at reduced capacity after a series of roof falls in the subsea slopes.

Mining expected to resume Monday

It was in a planned shut-down this week, but is expected to resume limited operations on Monday.

Supporters say it has created much-needed jobs in Cape Breton, but the mine has also been controversial for its use of temporary foreign workers and the high number of roof falls underground.

Critics also say the Nova Scotia government should not be supporting fossil fuels, because they cause pollution.

In addition to Kameron Collieries, which owns the Donkin mine, Cline's companies also own a coal mine in Hinton, Alta., and others in Illinois and West Virginia.

American news outlets said one of the coal magnate's daughters, friends of the family and the helicopter pilot died in the crash.

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About the Author

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He has spent the last 15 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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