Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia lifts stop-work order on Donkin's underground coal mine

Nova Scotia's Department of Labour says it has completed its inspections after a fire in Donkin's underground coal mine and has allowed production to resume, but the cause of the fire won't be released until next week.

Department of Labour says inspections are done, but the cause of fire will not be released until next week

A large semi-truck drives over a small rise on a gravel road heading towards a gate at the entrance to the Donkin mine property.
Coal production has resumed at the underground mine in Donkin, N.S., less than two weeks after Nova Scotia's Department of Labour issued a stop-work order due to a fire. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

A stop-work order has been lifted and production has resumed at the Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton following an underground fire nearly two weeks ago.

Inspectors checked the mine equipment before and after repairs due to the fire and the province is satisfied the coal mine can operate safely, said Gary O'Toole, senior executive director with the Nova Scotia Department of Labour.

"At this time, with those repairs completed, our finding is that there's no ongoing or imminent risk as it relates to this event from a safety perspective and that all systems that are in place for safety at the mine are functioning as they should," he said Friday.

O'Toole said the investigation into what caused the fire isn't complete. He said results are expected next week.

Thick smoke was seen billowing out from the underground mine for several hours late in the afternoon on April 30.

Because it was a Sunday, no one was working underground. There were no injuries and the fire was put out later that evening.

Conveyor system suspected

James Edwards, a member of the community liaison committee created by mine owner Kameron Coal Management Ltd., said at the time that the fire may have started with the underground conveyor system.

Former miners have said that would be unusual because the conveyor should have been shut down, either manually or automatically, at the end of a shift.

O'Toole said at the time that the province would look at that, but on Friday, he declined to say whether the conveyor system was at fault.

However, the mine has passed all of its safety requirements, he said.

"This is one of the most regulated and most visited work sites that we have in Nova Scotia from a safety perspective," O'Toole said.

The province is temporarily stepping up its unannounced site inspections as a result of the fire, he added.

"We're prioritizing safety and this increased inspection activity will include additional unannounced inspections and reviews of regular reports on the mine's operation."

In addition, O'Toole said the department is considering bringing in a consultant to provide a review of underground mine safety, but he could not say who that might be or whether the mine owner would pay for that.


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

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