Nova Scotia

Donkin mine is idled, but noise from fans still bothers area residents

After meeting with the owner of the idled Donkin mine recently to discuss the concerns of area residents, the mine's community liaison committee is seeking a better study on the actual noise level coming from ventilation fans.

Mine's community liaison committee calling for longer-term study

Paul Carrigan, chair of the Donkin mine community liaison committee, says Nova Scotia Environment needs to do a longer-term study on the noise coming from ventilation fans. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Cape Bretoners living up to 10 kilometres away from the idled Donkin coal mine say noise from the ventilation fans just isn't going away.

Kameron Coal closed the underground mine in March after numerous rock falls, saying the geology made the mine too difficult to operate. But the company continues to maintain the mine with equipment and a small crew.

"The noise level, according to people in the neighbourhoods of South Head, Port Morien and some other areas, at particular times the ventilation system makes noise, which is determined by these individuals to be disturbing," said Paul Carrigan, chair of the mine's community liaison committee.

The committee recently met with Kameron Coal officials to discuss the concerns of area residents. Carrigan said it may be time to get better information on the actual noise level coming from the ventilation fans.

"Apparently, it is within the guidelines, but that's 1995 guidelines," he said. "That doesn't mean that today that shouldn't be revisited."

After area residents complained about the noise in May, Nova Scotia Environment ordered the owner to pay for an independent study.

Study for up to a week?

The province said the two-day study found noise levels were within acceptable limits.

Carrigan said the liaison committee is asking the department to order a new study that could take up to a week to see if there are peaks and valleys in the noise levels.

Some residents are also complaining about greenhouse gas emissions from the mine, but Carrigan said that's a matter for another day.

"Our priority right now is the noise level," he said.

"If we have to deal with the methane level, we will, but mines emit methane. So do farms. So do many other areas, so it's one that we want to approach separately and not within the noise level. We want to deal with that first."

At the committee meeting, Kameron Coal was asked if it would consider paying for the installation of fan silencers, which could cost more than $200,000, but Carrigan said the owner's representatives said the company did not have the money for that.

There was also some suggestion the province be approached about paying for the silencers, but Carrigan said that's not something the liaison committee is seeking.

Two large trucks pass on a dusty road leading past the gate and guardhouse at the entrance to a mine.
The Donkin mine is idled, but area MLA Brian Comer says the vast majority of calls he gets from constituents about the mine are complaints over the noise from ventilation fans. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"We're not at that stage yet, because what we want to do, of course, is determine the level, the decibels, and then determine our next steps, but that could be something, but the CLC is not asking that," he said.

No one from Kameron Coal was available for comment on Thursday.

Brian Comer, the area's MLA, said the vast majority of calls he gets from constituents about the Donkin mine are noise complaints.

He said he has heard some concerns about methane emissions, but he's not looking into those right now.

Noise level within limits, department says

In an email, Barbara MacLean, Nova Scotia Environment communications adviser, said the department ordered the mine owner to pay for an independent noise study in May. She said it showed the levels are below those required under the mine's industrial approval.

"It is not the policy or practice of government to pay for the purchase or installation of mine equipment, and we have not received a request regarding this to date," she said.

"The department is aware of the concerns from the community liaison committee regarding noise, but has not received a formal request for further action."



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