Nova Scotia

Stop-work order lifted after rockfall at Cape Breton's Donkin coal mine

Nova Scotia's Labour Department has lifted a stop-work order for part of the Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton after a rockfall on Feb. 2. There was no mining activity underway at the time and no one was injured.

No one was hurt when a section of roof fell on Feb. 2

Production at the Donkin coal mine was limited to one of two sections following a rockfall on Feb. 2, 2020. The company says the stop-work order was lifted on Feb. 7. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Nova Scotia's Labour Department has lifted a stop-work order for part of the Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton after a rockfall on Feb. 2.

There was no mining activity underway at the time and no one was injured.

Scott Nauss, the Labour Department's senior director of inspections and compliance, said the fall was discovered on the evening of Feb. 2 when miners on backshift reported for work.

The rectangular-shape rock measured six metres by six metres and was four-metres thick. It fell at an intersection of two underground tunnels.

Nauss said the workers cordoned off that area, continued to work in another section of the mine and notified the department of the roof fall on Feb. 3.

An employee secures an entrance to the Donkin mine in this file photo. (CBC)

Nauss said the mine was immediately inspected and the stop-work order was issued.

He said the mine operator, Kameron Coal, was ordered to clean up the area and to take corrective measures so there isn't a recurrence.

The mine was permitted to continue to produce from the other section, which doesn't show the "same telltale signs" of roof instability as the area where the rockfall happened, said Nauss.

A series of rockfalls in the mine in late 2018 forced the mine to stop production for a month while it submitted new ground control plans. Work was also halted for about a week in July 2019 after another rockfall.

Nauss said the province will investigate whether Kameron Coal was adhering to that plan when the latest rock fall happened.

What the company is doing

He said the coal company is also bringing in some ground control experts to investigate what happened and recommend protective measures.

Nauss said Kameron Coal has already agreed to install secondary roof supports more frequently.

In an earlier news release, the company said production had resumed as scheduled in an unaffected area of the mine.

A spokesperson for Kameron Coal said the affected area was cleaned up and workers were once again digging coal there.

The company said the stop-work order was lifted on Feb. 7.

The Labour Department said Kameron Coal completed a full assessment and, as a result, is increasing roof monitoring activity and adding extra roof supports where required.

Neither the company nor the department would say why the roof fall occurred or whether it was preventable.

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With files from Tom Ayers

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