Donkin coal mine’s operations suspended after roof collapse

Work at the Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton has been suspended after a roof collapse late last week. 

There was no mining operation underway when the collapse occurred Dec. 28 and no injuries were reported, said Shannon Kerr, a spokesperson for the provincial Labour Department.

Kameron Coal employs more than 100 people at the mine near Glace Bay, which won’t be able to resume operations until the province gives the go-ahead.

“The department will continue to use all tools available to us to ensure our regulations are followed and that a robust safety program is in place at the mine,” Kerr said in a statement.

VP says top priority is safety

Donkin mine vice-president Shannon Campbell told CBC News in a statement the mine had “experienced certain adverse geological conditions beyond our control” during the scheduled Christmas shutdown.

The government “has directed that we review a variety of engineering and operational measures designed to monitor, control and prevent these types of situations,” he said, adding the mine has reached out to experts in the field for help evaluating its plans and procedures.

Shannon Campbell, vice-president of the Donkin mine, said the mine is reaching out to experts in the field as it works on the mine’s plans and procedures. (CBC)

“While we hope we can resolve this matter quickly and get back to work, our top priority as always, is the safety of our employees and contractors,” Campbell said.

Former workers said last March the mine is a disaster in waiting, with employees subjected to dangerous conditions, including ceiling cave-ins.

Roof support inadequate, workers said

The miners, granted anonymity by CBC News because they had signed a confidentiality agreement with the company, said bolts used for support are too short and the roof support in the mining galleries is inadequate. 

At the time, the mine’s management declined a request from Radio-Canada for an interview, but said in an emailed statement that safe production was its No. 1 priority.

Inspection records from February 2017 to February 2018 showed the mine had struggled to solve problems with falling rocks and coal. In one area where rocks had fallen, an inspector noted the roof had “little to no self-supporting ability.”

Coal mining in Cape Breton had been dormant for more than 15 years until the non-unionized Donkin mine opened in February 2017, established to tap into a massive coal deposit under the ocean.

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