Nova Scotia

Donkin mine owner to modify noisy ventilation system that's keeping residents awake

People living near the idled underground coal mine in Donkin, N.S., may be getting some relief soon after the mine's owner, Kameron Coal, announced plans to modify its ventilation system.

Area residents up to 7 kilometres away say noise from the idled mine is affecting their sleep and health

Two large trucks pass on a dusty road leading past the gate and guardhouse at the entrance to a mine.
Nova Scotia's Environment Department has renewed the Donkin coal mine's industrial licence in Cape Breton, with several new conditions. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

People affected by noise from ventilation fans at the idled underground coal mine in Donkin, N.S., may be getting some relief soon.

The mine's owner, Kameron Coal, says it plans to modify its equipment to try to reduce the sound.

Cape Breton regional councillor James Edwards, a member of the mine's community liaison committee, said the work should be done by the end of the year and that is great news.

"This noise is very disruptive and it's really, well, disrupting the quality of life for several residents, and I'm really happy that it's being addressed," he said.

"This will be welcome news for the residents of the area who have been sleep deprived for several months."

Some area residents living up to seven kilometres away have been complaining about the noise since the company shut the mine down last year.

Even though the mine is no longer operating, Kameron Coal kept a handful of staff on to keep water out of the mine and to vent gases using large industrial ventilation fans.

'It's been a long, hard go'

Betty Rankin lives in Port Morien, three or four kilometres from the mine, and said the noise has affected her sleep and her health.

"It's been a long, hard go to resolve this problem," she said. "It's definitely affected our lives. It's the type of noise that gets in your head and you can't get rid of it.

"It wakes you during the night and even if you get to sleep, it might start again in the night and it wakes you up. Even when you don't hear it, you're anticipating that it's going to start, so you can't get away from that."

Rankin said she is pleased with the announcement of a solution, but she is not looking forward to another three months.

She and a group called the Cow Bay Environmental Coalition asked the Department of Environment to investigate, but noise levels were deemed to be within acceptable industrial limits.

Rankin said she hopes the new provincial government will amend regulations on the mine operation.

'It isn't a phantom noise'

Edwards said the issue has been the largest single topic of complaint he has received since being elected to council last fall.

He said the noise does come and go, but he has only heard it occasionally at his residence in Homeville, which is surrounded by trees.

"Yes, I've heard it and it isn't a phantom noise. There's no question about it. It's a very real, prominent noise and I certainly wouldn't want to have it the way that some residents have it, where I can't sleep or watch TV," he said.

Edwards said there is still no word on whether the owner plans to restart the mine, but he said resolving the noise complaints is a good sign.

"If they're making that kind of investment, I think that bodes well for the mine's future," he said.

Edwards said the liaison committee was not given any details on the exact nature of the modifications the company is planning or the possible cost, although previous reports have suggested it could be over $200,000.

In an email, mine manager Cameron McLennan said a British firm has been hired to modify the ventilation fans.

He said the contractor believes it can reduce the noise, but provided no other details.



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