Problems with roof supports leads to temporary closure of coal mine in Cape Breton

Click to play video: 'Reopened N.S. coal mine raises safety worries, climate pledge doubts'
Reopened N.S. coal mine raises safety worries, climate pledge doubts
There are new questions over just how committed Canada is to climate action, as the Donkin underground coal mine in Nova Scotia reopens. Ross Lord looks at the concerns about worker safety and the environment. – Sep 15, 2022

The Donkin underground coal mine in Cape Breton was temporarily shut down this week following the discovery of structural problems with some roof supports.

Nova Scotia’s Labour Department says it received a report about the supports in the main access tunnel on Sunday.

Inspectors were sent into the mine on Monday where they found a “very small amount” of roof material had fallen on the floor of the tunnel.

No one was injured, and the department confirmed Tuesday the mine had been given approval to reopen after repair work was completed and inspected.

The mine resumed operations in mid-September after it was shuttered in March 2020 amid slumping coal prices and roof collapses that led to repeated stop-work orders.

Operated by Kameron Coal Management Ltd., it has received 23 warnings, 28 compliance orders and 11 administrative penalties or fines since it reopened.

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The Labour Department has said the number of citations isn’t surprising, given the frequency of inspections and the complexities of underground mining.

“We will continue with strict enforcement of the extensive regulatory requirements of this complex work site,” the department said in a statement Tuesday. “The department continues to monitor safety requirements and will step in to ensure compliance.”

On May 17, the department announced that no penalties or compliance measures would be imposed on the operator after safety officials investigated an underground fire that broke out on April 30.

The investigators determined the fire was caused by an overheated ball bearing in a conveyor system used to extract coal from the mine, which has twin tunnels that extend three kilometres under the Atlantic Ocean. No one was in the mine when the fire started.

When the mine started production in February 2017, it was the first underground coal mine to operate in Nova Scotia since 2001. The Labour Department says the mine is believed to be the world’s only operating undersea coal mine.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 11, 2023.

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