Donkin mine shows signs of beginning operation
Residents cite upgrade to power lines, new equipment as hopeful signs
There are encouraging signs that the Donkin mine in Cape Breton, N.S., will open soon, although there is still no official word that will happen.
The mine was purchased last year by American coal giant, the Cline Group, and is operated locally by a subsidiary, Kameron Collieries.
The mine was dug by the now-defunct Cape Breton Development Corporation but was never worked.
When DEVCO was folded, the provincial government allowed the mine to flood with ocean water to save the cost of constant pumping.
In recent months, the mine has been pumped out and locals have noticed other signs of the project moving forward.
Power service upgrades
For example, Kameron has begun to improve power service to the site, Cape Breton Regional Coun. Kevin Saccary said,
"The investment with Nova Scotia Power to upgrade the power lines, it sounds like they're in a hurry to get those power lines up and running because they have indicated they have two huge generators on site that are very 'thirsty.' And it appears to be a costly venture to keep those generators going."
Saccary said Kameron has also invested in some expensive heavy equipment clearly meant for mining.
A heavy duty vehicle designed to carry miners to the coal face and a huge loading machine for use underground have both appeared on the site.
Ten people are currently employed to maintain the pumps and Cline recently began advertising to fill several positions related to underground mining.
Trucking corridor proposed
An operations manager has been on the site since February.
Kameron has not indicated how it would transport the coal, if it moves forward with the project, Saccary said.
Moving the coal by barge to vessels offshore is on the list of possibilities, as is shipping it by rail once it has been carried by truck to the nearest rail line.
But Saccary said a third option is now being proposed: a trucking "corridor" over a disused rail bed.
Saccary said he, the mayor and the deputy mayor met with the Cline Group several months ago to talk about the idea.
The main advantage would be savings, he said.
Up to 120 jobs possible
"Priced out with estimates, rail is $90 million plus, barging is around $50 million plus, and we came in at — with a trucking corridor — $30 million plus."
Saccary said Cline appeared to find the idea appealing and there could be benefits to the municipality, too.
"There's certainly lots of room to take it either to Victoria Junction or to the SPAR road," he explained. "The big plus of that is that it would open up lands along the way for the possibility of commercial or industrial development."
In contrast to underground mines of old, which employed thousands of people, a working Donkin mine would employ between 90 and 120 people.
Estimates suggest local spinoff jobs would be about four times that many.