Nova Scotia

Province serves Donkin mine operator with series of compliance orders, warnings

The operator of the underground coal mine in Donkin, N.S., has been reprimanded by the Department of Labour for deficiencies in equipment and procedures 10 times since late January.

Inspectors issued four orders and six warnings since limited production restarted after roof cave-in

No one was injured after a rockfall in one of the entrance tunnels at the idled underground coal mine in Donkin, N.S., over the weekend. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The Nova Scotia government has issued four compliance orders and six warnings to the Donkin coal mine operator since January.

The underground mine in Cape Breton was shut down at the end of December after the roof caved in. It was allowed to reopen a month later, but only for limited production.

The Department of Labour has ramped up inspections since then, but it is not overly concerned by the latest reprimands.

Harold Carroll, the department's executive director of occupational health and safety, said it's no surprise that inspectors are finding infractions.

"I don't know if I'd call them routine, but as we've stated since this mine became operational a couple of years ago, it is a fairly complex underground operation with lots of moving parts," he said.

The Donkin coal mine emitted more than 76,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases in its first year of operation, and more than 151,000 tonnes last year, even though it has been idled since 2020. (Radio-Canada)

Since production restarted in a small section of the mine, the operator has been cited for deficiencies in equipment and procedures.

According to the department, it has issued to Kameron Coal:


  • Feb. 12 — requirement to follow operator's mobile equipment operating procedure.
  • Feb. 12 — requirement to have protection for crossing under beltlines.
  • Feb. 12 — requirement to properly position emergency stop along conveyor.
  • March 6 — requirement to have pullcord and guarding on conveyor system.


  • Jan. 31 — must have proper functioning for ventilation control device.
  • Feb. 12 — must have proper fire extinguisher on mobile equipment.
  • Feb. 12 — must have adequate barrier around methane drainage pipeline system.
  • March 6 — must properly use ladders.
  • March 6 — must follow fuelling procedures
  • March 6 — must have proper placement of warning signage at a conveyor loading point

Carroll said he couldn't address the specifics of the infractions.

However, he said issues such as improper use of ladders are common at many work sites across the province.

Proper ventilation is one of the most important aspects of an underground operation, Carroll said, but receiving a warning doesn't necessarily mean inspectors found a serious violation of regulations.

It could simply mean workers were in the process of fixing something they had already identified, he said.

Large, complex workplace

Carroll said the coal shafts extend several kilometres out under the ocean and inspectors check different parts of the workplace each time they go underground.

As a result, inspectors are finding a wide variety of infractions because it's a large and complex workplace, he said.

The number of orders and warnings is not a concern, Carroll said.

"It doesn't raise any significant red flags for us."

Shannon Campbell, the mine's vice-president, says Kameron Coal takes safety very seriously and has been working closely with provincial inspectors. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Shannon Campbell, vice-president of the Donkin mine, said in an email that the operator takes compliance orders very seriously.

Campbell said the company is working with the department to address regulatory issues and welcomes the guidance.

Since the latest roof cave-in, Kameron Coal has submitted a new ground-control plan to the department and is in talks with the province to get approval to restart full production.



Tom Ayers


Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 37 years. He has spent the last 19 covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at