Sleepless in Donkin: Mine's ventilation system still keeping people awake
'I just can't get to sleep,' says nearby resident Catherine Fergusson
The Donkin mine in Cape Breton hasn't produced coal in two years, but it's still causing some residents to have sleepless nights.
That's because the site's ventilation system, which exhausts gases such as methane from the mine, is still noisily running.
That's despite a massive "muffler" that was installed in early February to quiet the noise at the mine, which is located 12 kilometres east of Glace Bay.
Catherine Fergusson lives in nearby South Head.
"It's eight kilometres from the mine and it wakes me up," she said. "Could you imagine if you were a little closer to the mine? I feel badly for the residents along Long Beach Road."
That's where the entrance to the mine is located.
Fergusson is the chair of the local Cow Bay Environmental Coalition. She said the culprit is low-frequency noise.
"Low-frequency noise travels differently than regular noise," she said. "It penetrates wind and it penetrates walls and windows. And you really can't escape it. It's like this drone."
The noise is intermittent, but Fergusson said it seems to be louder on weeknights and weekends.
"During the nighttime, they often start winding up," she said. "And it either wakes me up and I'm up for a chunk of the night, or as I'm going to bed, it's going and I just can't get to sleep."
Fergusson said residents want the problem fixed.
James Edwards is a local municipal councillor who is a member of the mine's community liaison committee.
"Kameron Coal [the mine's owner] did noise testing and the results weren't what they had hoped for," he said.
The company hasn't confirmed if it plans to eventually reopen the mine.
'It's still a work in progress'
Edwards said that a British company designed the muffler and that a Cape Breton company built and installed it.
He said that Kameron Coal has contacted the U.K. company "for more instruction to see what, if anything, can be done to assist with the noise reduction, but it's still a work in progress at this point."
Edwards said there'll be an update during the community liaison committee's next meeting on April 6.
Fergusson said residents have asked the provincial government to force the mine owner to fix the problem.
What the Environment Department is saying
An interview request with the Environment Department was declined.
In a statement, spokesperson Tracy Barron said "it is our understanding that further modifications are being considered" and "you need to contact the company for further details of their noise mitigation and monitoring."
Fergusson said that's not good enough.
"It continues to expose our residents to low-frequency noise," she said. "And I just don't understand how our government can allow that to happen."
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