Nova Scotia

Idle Donkin coal mine continues to generate noise complaints

The Nova Scotia MLA representing the Donkin area says noise from the ventilation system in the idle underground Donkin coal mine is continuing to irritate neighbours even though the operation shut down in March.

Area MLA says people living more than 10 kilometres away from mine feeling health effects from vent noise

Noise from the ventilation system at the idle Donkin coal mine continues to generate complaints from people living in surrounding communities. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The underground coal mine in Donkin, N.S., shut down more than two months ago, but people in neighbouring communities say it continues to irritate them.

A couple in South Head, N.S., has created a website listing their complaints about noise and air pollution. The area's provincial representative says he's heard similar concerns from constituents in various communities around Donkin, some of which are 10 kilometres or more from the mine.

"It's been quite significant, to be honest," said Brian Comer, MLA for Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg. "Residents of South Head, Port Morien, Donkin, Homeville, have voiced significant concerns with the noise pollution from the mine impacting the day-to-day quality of life."

The mine owner, Kameron Coal, ceased operations in March citing difficult geology. The mine had suffered multiple rockfalls in the three years it was open and although no one was injured, stop-work orders slowed down coal production.

Most of the roughly 140 workers were laid off when the mine closed, but Kameron Coal left behind a handful of employees to perform routine maintenance and to keep the ventilation system running.

LeRoy Peach of nearby Port Morien, N.S., said he recently moved into a new home in a different part of town and that's when he became aware of the noise.

'Low, growling noise'

"When I first came here, I heard this noise. I thought it was a motor," he said.

"It's kind of a low, growling noise and for a long time I didn't know what it was."

Comer said the noise seems to be coming from ventilation fans at the mine.

The MLA said he's been dealing with complaints from around the area for more than three months and he has heard the noise himself.

"There's definitely a noise to it, for sure," Comer said. "It carries on the water. I think it's actually surprising how far it does carry."

Peach said the noise doesn't bother him, but he has family members living nearby who are having trouble sleeping.

Comer said he's convinced the noise is harming people's health.

Brian Comer, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg, says the noise from the Donkin mine has been keeping people in other communities up at night. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"Lack of sleep, kind of keeping them up through the night," he said.

"Just constant kind of irritation, I guess, on day-to-day kind of activities, which I think has probably been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, when people are spending typically more time at home."

The Department of Environment said in an email it issued a directive to Kameron Coal last month requiring the company to hire a third party to do a noise study, which found that noise levels are below the criteria required in the mine's industrial approval.

Comer said despite that, he would like to see federal and provincial officials come together to find a solution for area residents.

Dialogue questioned

"It's the hope that we can start a dialogue to sort of develop a long-term scientific-based strategy ... to make sure the health and safety and the environmental concerns in this area, of these residents, are looked after," he said.

Peach said he's not sure that dialogue will be enough.

"I think that more has to be done," he said. "I mean, it can't continue this way."

Kameron Coal declined to comment.

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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 16 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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