Nova Scotia

Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton hit by another rockfall

The reopening of the Donkin coal mine, which shut down last week for a brief summer vacation period, has been delayed by a rockfall. Canada's only operating underground coal mine has been limited to active work in two small sections after a series of roof falls last year.

No injuries reported in overnight rockfall near mine entranceway

The 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 reopening of Cape Breton's Donkin coal mine, which shut down last week for a brief summer vacation period, has been delayed by a rockfall.

Canada's only operating underground coal mine was scheduled to start back in limited production Monday morning, but the Nova Scotia Department of Labour said maintenance workers discovered a rockfall partway along the mine entranceway around 1 a.m.

There were no injuries.

The rockfall is not near the coal-cutting operations, which are deep under the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Breton Island near the community of Donkin.

Stop-work order issued

The provincial labour department issued a stop-work order at the mine following an inspection Monday.

Coal mining cannot resume until the company has determined what led to the rockfall, said Scott Nauss, the senior director of inspections and compliance with the labour department.

He said the company also needs to come up with safeguards to prevent a recurrence.

Nauss said the rock fall was about 10 metres in length, six metres wide, and a metre-and-a-half deep.

The mine has been limited to active work in two small sections since January after a series of roof falls last year.

Scott Nauss, senior director of inspections and compliance with the Nova Scotia Department of Labour, says it appears the latest rockfall occurred 'relatively close to the surface.' (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Nauss said it was surprising that a rockfall occurred in tunnel number 2, which is the main entranceway into and out of the mine.

Nauss said a preliminary report from the mine operator indicates the rockfall was less than halfway along the main slope. The mine extends at least two kilometres out under the ocean.

The mine operator, Kameron Collieries, said in an email that part of the roof fell in on Sunday.

"This mine tunnel was first driven in 1984 and had not had any issues since then," the company said.

"The area and nature of this event is unrelated to the stress-related issues experienced in the last half of 2018."

About the Author

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 33 years. He has spent the last 15 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.