Fishermen support Donkin plan to truck coal after company says rail too pricey

Coal extracted from the Donkin mine in Cape Breton will not be transported by rail despite calls from fishermen to find an alternative to barging product offshore, the company said Monday.

The mine says it will build a private bypass road to lessen the impact on residents

Donkin mine. (Radio-Canada)

Coal extracted from the Donkin mine in Cape Breton will not be transported by rail despite calls from fishermen to find an alternative to barging product offshore.

However, it appears both sides have come to an agreement that could see coal moved by truck.

"Transporting coal by rail isn't something we are considering right now as the installation of the infrastructure required is cost prohibitive and the permitting/construction timelines are unacceptable," Donkin vice-president Shannon Cambell said Monday in a written statement.

A group of fishermen in the area has protested a long-term plan by Kameron Collieries — the U.S.-based owner of the Donkin operation — to barge coal from a marine terminal south of the mine to larger vessels waiting offshore. The fishermen claim doing so would damage lucrative fishing grounds and hurt their livelihoods.

"Our first choice was rail," said Herb Nash, a member of the fishermen's liaison committee that has been in talks with Donkin. 

Herb Nash has been fishing out of Glace Bay harbour for nearly 50 years. (CBC)

"That would have kept everybody happy, because nobody wanted them going through their community."

During a recent meeting with the committee, Campbell laid out the company's plans to build a new, private bypass road in order to minimize the impacts of trucking on local neighbourhoods. 

Though the fishermen had originally opposed the trucking of coal out of concern for area residents, Nash said they are satisfied with the company's latest solution.

Nash is hopeful the new road means the barging plan is on hold for now.

"The way I understood it ... they were going to build this road and see how this works, and hopefully this here would do it," he said.

However, Campbell has indicated plans for barging are proceeding.

Shannon Campbell is vice-president of the Donkin mine. (CBC)

"In order to finalize a marine terminal concept, we need to perform geotechnical testing and drill small holes into the sea floor to determine the depth of sediment and bedrock," Campbell said in the statement.

No date has been set for that work. Nash said the fishermen are also opposed to drilling.

"We're hoping to work it out. That's why we got this committee set up to try to work out this stuff before it happens," he said. "But worse come to worse, we'll have to do what we can do to stop it."

Campbell said the company continues to have ongoing, respectful and productive discussions with the committee.​

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About the Author

Holly Conners

Reporter

Holly Conners is a reporter and current affairs producer who has been with CBC Cape Breton since 1998. Contact her at holly.conners@cbc.ca.