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No clear timeline of when Donkin Coal mine will reopen, but mine interested in doing the work: Balser

By Caitlin Snow Nov 24, 2023 | 9:58 AM

There is still no clear timeline of when The Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton can reopen but Minister of Labour Jill Balser says the mine has shown interest in the two-phase approach laid out by the province, after a lengthy third-party report.

The report, conducted by Andrew Corkum, an associate professor in Dalhousie University’s department of civil and resource engineering, emphasizes the impact of seasonal changes and humidity on roof stability within the mine.

The first phase of recommended changes demands an immediate response to the report’s findings. This includes updating the hazard assessment classification system and implementing additional monitoring measures in the tunnel. This comes after a stop work order issued in July due to roof falls, with Kameron Coal Management Ltd., the operator of the Donkin coal mine, facing the task of getting to Phase 1 quickly. The stop work order, in effect since July, followed a significant roof fall in Tunnel 2 and a smaller roof fall on July 9.

Fortunately, no injuries were reported from either incident.

Phase 2 proposes a comprehensive review of the ground control management plan to align with the report’s findings. It’s to ensure the mine is adequately prepared for seasonal changes and periods of high humidity, increasing safety measures. The Department has mandated a third-party engineer with expertise in mining and tunnelling to conduct this review. While the mine is permitted to operate during the winter, Phase 2 must be completed first.

“If the mine does show compliance under phase 1, they could reopen and work towards phase 2.  It’s one of the reasons why the province looked at the timeline of when higher humidity does happen and that is really in the spring and summer months,” said Balser.

Balser added that Premier Tim Houston has reached out about visiting the mine, but that is not yet set in stone.

Balser said she appreciates that the miners do have concerns around the length of time about when the mine will reopen, but reiterates they now have a clear pathway for miners to get back to work.

With files from Evan Taylor