Nova Scotia

Donkin mine back in production after stop-work order partially lifted

Production has resumed in part of Kameron Coal's underground mine in Donkin, N.S., after the Nova Scotia Labour Department partially lifted a stop-work order issued three weeks ago following two rockfalls in a month.

Nova Scotia Labour Department increases safety measures in one section where mining has resumed

Production has resumed in part of the Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton after two underground rockfalls last month, but the province's stop-work order still covers one section. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

The underground coal mine at Donkin is back in production three weeks after the Nova Scotia government issued a stop-work order.

The Department of Labour halted all mining at Kameron Coal's Cape Breton facility in mid-February after the roof fell in for the second time in a month.

One section remains closed to mining for now, Scott Nauss, the department's senior director of inspections and compliance, said Monday.

On Friday, the province lifted the stop-work order in another section of the mine that has not had any rockfalls, but safety requirements have been heightened.

"There is some increased ground-control measures," Nauss said. "These are new since the latest rockfall."

The mine operator now must use longer roof bolts at intersections and is required to double the number of telltale monitors that measure roof movement, he said.

Increased inspections

In addition, the department has again stepped up its mine inspection schedule.

"We will now be inspecting the mine weekly," Nauss said.

Rockfalls are an inherent risk in underground mining, he said, and the province is confident its efforts are resulting in regulations that manage that risk.

The Donkin mine has recorded rockfalls of varying sizes since it opened in 2017, and the operator has faced increasing safety measures every time.

No one has been injured in any of the incidents.

"There has been a progressive increase in the size of the cable bolts at the intersections," said Nauss.

"Last year they were eight-foot. We progressed to 12-foot. Now we're progressing to 20-foot and the number of telltale monitoring ... increased 50 per cent each time there has been a rockfall, so it's essentially doubled twice now since the previous 2019 levels."

The mine operator has brought in ground-control consultants and the province has hired its own experts to assess the geology and determine ways to improve safety. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Kameron Coal has brought in ground-control experts to provide advice and the province has hired experts from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.

"We have them coming to the mine to really take a look at the geology and the indicators to try and develop a plan which will be able to manage this hazard," he said.

"As they gather more information, they are better able to understand the seam and as they get a better understanding of the seam, they are better able to propose some corrective measures that can effectively manage the risk."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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