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Donkin coal mine to remain closed after a pair of significant rock falls last month

By Joe Thomson Aug 10, 2023 | 4:31 PM

The future of Cape Breton’s Donkin coal mine remains up in the air following a pair of recent incidents.

On July 15, a 50-foot-long stretch of the mine’s roof fell in. This came just a week after a smaller roof fall. Since those incidents, a stop work order has been in place for almost four weeks now. Jeff Dolan, the mine’s acting senior executive director, says the order will remain in place while a third party conducts a series of reviews over the mine’s safety, and how reports of the incident were handled.

He said there’s no estimate as to when the mine may reopen.

“At this time, we want to make sure we take the time necessary to consider all available information related to the mine directly, and also to the safety of the industry overall,” said Dolan.

The province says that since the mine opened in 2017, there have been 32 roof falls. Given the number of dangerous incidents that have happened, including a fire earlier this year, the question becomes whether the mine will truly ever be safe to reopen.

For now, Dolan says his top priority is making sure the mine can reopen safely but admitted that the recent string of events is alarming.

“The fact that we’ve had two rock falls in the month of July, quite close together and in increasing size is concerning,” said Dolan. “We’re at a point now, where we want to ensure we’re doing our due diligence, that our main focus is to make sure that everyone who works in and around that mind comes home safely every day.”

The Donkin mine is Nova Scotia’s only remaining underground coal mine and the only subsea coal mine in the world.

“Even though we know roof falls can happen in underground mining. That doesn’t mean we should treat these incidents as normal,” said labour minister Jill Balser.


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