The Coal Trader

Coal News, Donkin Coal Mine

Stop-work order lifted 5 months after roof falls at Donkin mine

Province says mine operator Kameron Coal has met safety requirements of 1st phase and can restart production.

Nova Scotia’s Department of Labour has lifted a stop-work order more than five months after a pair of roof falls at the underground coal mine in Donkin, but it’s not yet clear when production will restart.

The province notified mine operator Kameron Coal of the decision on Wednesday, saying the company has complied with the first phase of safety requirements issued in October. Those include updating its hazard assessment classification system and adding more monitoring measures in the roof of the access tunnel.

“The department is satisfied that Kameron Coal has met the conditions outlined in the compliance order,” Scott Nauss, the department’s senior executive director of safety, said in a news release.

No one from Kameron Coal could be reached for comment. The company typically does not respond to media requests.

The province hired Dalhousie engineering professor Andrew Corkum to examine the mine’s safety plans after the company repaired the roof falls this summer.

Corkum reported that roof falls mostly occurred when humidity levels were high and recommended a two-phase reopening. 

Third-party review needed

The province said the company has met the requirements of the first phase and can resume mining, but only during the winter when humidity levels are lower.

The company cannot continue to mine after Feb. 29, 2024, unless it hires an independent third-party engineer with experience in mining to review the company’s ground control plan.

Ground control plans — an underground mine’s roof is the ground — typically include detection of roof movements and mitigation measures to protect workers from falling rock, among other things.

There were no injuries in the roof falls in July, but the second one was considered to be of significant size by provincial safety officials, who were also concerned about the frequency of the incidents.

The mine has experienced 32 roof falls of more than three tonnes since it opened in 2017, the department said.

Since July, Kameron Coal has laid off its workers in stages, but idled the mine completely in November over uncertainty about when the stop-work order would be lifted.

Cape Breton Regional Municipality Deputy Mayor James Edwards, a member of the mine’s community liaison committee, said it’s not clear when the laid-off miners can get back to work, but said Wednesday’s news from the government was positive.

“Certainly I’m pleased with the stop-work order being lifted in the announcement today,” he said. “It’s good, but it doesn’t mean an imminent reopening of the mine just yet.”

Edwards said some of the laid-off miners went out west to work, so it may take some time for the company to assemble and possibly train staff.

“Fingers crossed and I know that this will come as great news to the families of the miners and the workers there and the business community,” he said. “It’s all good from the economic perspective.”