'Let them take it by rail': Fishermen oppose Donkin mine's marine terminal plan

Fishermen in eastern Cape Breton will appeal to two federal ministers to stop plans by the operators of the Donkin coal mine to move coal by barge, which they claim will damage lucrative fishing grounds, and hurt their livelihoods.

Kameron Coal wants to build a marine terminal in Morien Bay, N.S., to ship coal

Kameron Collieries wants to build a marine terminal in Morien Bay to load coal onto barges and move it to larger vessels offshore. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

Fishermen in eastern Cape Breton will appeal to two federal ministers to stop plans by the operators of the Donkin coal mine to move coal by barge, which they claim will damage lucrative fishing grounds, and hurt their livelihoods.

Kameron Coal wants to build a marine terminal in Morien Bay, several kilometres south of the Donkin mine, to load coal onto barges and move it to larger vessels offshore.

About 200 people, many of them fishermen, packed the Port Morien Legion on Thursday night, just across the highway from Morien Bay, to denounce the plan.

The fishermen say there will be a large exclusion zone around the coal pier and the trans-shipment zone, that will force them out of those fishing areas.

The meeting heard that fishermen are worried about a large exclusion zone around the proposed coal pier and trans-shipment zone, that will force them out of those fishing areas. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

They're also worried about potential environmental damage.

"Basically, I'm just worried about the environment and the community," said James Bates, the local fire chief, and a former fisherman.  "What effect is it going to have on the local wildlife, be it lobster or crab?" 

No representatives from Kameron Coal were present at the meeting.

"It seems the government has given the okay for them to come in and rape our industry, and just let us fall and become collateral damage," Josephine Kennedy, the wife of a local fisherman and chair of the meeting, told the crowd.

She said the preferred option is for Kameron Coal to move the coal by rail, although the company has said the cost of doing that would be prohibitive.

"Let them come in, let them take the coal, let them take it by rail," said Kennedy.

Meeting chair Josephine Kennedy said the preferred option is for Kameron Collieries to move the coal by rail, although the company has said the cost of doing that would be prohibitive. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

Residents of Port Morien have also voiced their concerns about trucks hauling coal from Donkin mine through their community.

At a June meeting, they told a Department of Transportation official and Donkin mine vice-president Shannon Campbell that the roads are inadequate and the trucks are too big. Campbell said up to eight trucks a day haul coal from the mine to Sydney Harbour.

Fishermen are also upset withthe coal company's plans to conduct seismic testing in the area this fall, which they say could damage fish stocks.

Some people at the meeting called for immediate action, such as seeking a court injunction against the seismic tests, or blocking the entrance to the mine.

Fishermen are also upset with the coal company's plans to conduct seismic testing in the area this fall, which they say could damage fish stocks. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

But in the end, the group agreed to appeal to the federal ministers of environment and fisheries to intervene, to protect the fishing grounds.

Kennedy said the fishermen feel their voices are often overlooked.

"I'm so sick and tired of government and agencies preferring to talk to those people in the tailored business suits, rather than us in the rubber boots," said Kennedy.

The fishermen also plan to invite federal, provincial and municipal politicians to meet with them.

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