The Donkin Mine community liaison committee is investigating ongoing complaints related to noise from the mine's ventilation system.
“We’re working with Kameron Coal and the province to see what could be done to mitigate noise levels and concerns from the public,” said committee chair Paul Carrigan.
Carrigan said the committee had an online meeting with Donkin Mine managers last Wednesday regarding residents' concerns, in particular from the South Head area.
A 24-hour study was conducted on the noise levels by the provincial Environment Department in May.
Carrigan said the committee needs to know what the decibel level is over a certain period of time.
“The committee suggested Kameron do a study over a few days, maybe three to seven days,” he said. “They agreed to look into that for us."
In the meantime, Carrigan said the committee plans to meet in South Head to see what they can hear without any equipment, to see how disruptive the sound is for themselves.
“The committee has never heard it so we do plan to visit,” he said. “We might ask Kameron to come with us, but the committee will do a site visit there, the area of most concern.”
Carrigan said he has been contacted with concerns that the Donkin community liaison committee is not supporting Kameron Coal.
“That’s not true,” Carrigan said. “The CLC does support the operation of the mine. Our committee is fully supportive and believe it’s a good thing for the island and the province. The CLC in no way wants to see the mine shut down.”
However, it’s not the committee's mandate to know whether the mine will resume operations or not. The committee focuses on safety and environmental issues.
“It’s still operating in the sense of being maintained,” Carrigan said. “The committee still meets to discuss any issues.”
Safety of the employees and the environment is the committee's focus, he said.
On March 30, Kameron Collieries announced they were ceasing operations at the coal mine due to the adverse geological conditions, leaving upwards of 150 people out of work. A small staff maintains the basics of the mine and as a result, the ventilation system has continued to operate and equipment on site is maintained.
Environment Department spokesperson Barbara MacLean said they are aware of the concerns from the community liaison committee regarding noise and are continuing to work with them on this matter. On May 12, the department issued a directive to Kameron Coal requiring the company hire a third party to conduct a noise monitoring study. The study, done May 13-14, showed that noise levels are below the criteria required in the company’s industrial approval.
In a Cape Breton Post story on June 9, a South Head couple said although they live about seven kilometres from Donkin Mine "as the crow flies," the noise from the mine’s intake fans for the exhaust system penetrates the wind and the waves and is affecting their quality of life. The sound from the mine is so loud, the couple says, they can actually record it.
Claude Peach, a member of the community liaison committee, said as a resident of Port Morien he has experienced noise from the fans.
“There are solutions,” he said. “There are silencers out there for the noise and even other options to quiet down these fans.”
Peach said he fully supports the coal mine reopening if coal prices go back up but feels the noise problem and other issues of concern have to be addressed first.
“I want to see it reopen but not under the conditions it's at right now.”
Peach has also always advocated for a better transportation system, which is actually his main concern.
“If the mine reopens we have to somehow convince them to come up with a better transportation system and get those trucks out of the villages, both Donkin and Port Morien,” he said. “We get the road destruction and pollution from the trucks with the coal dust.”
Another concern is safety in the mine.
Peach said a better roof system is needed, which is obvious considering the numerous roof falls at Donkin Mine the past couple of years.
“It’s a scary situation, a disaster waiting to happen and no one wants to see that,” he added.
Many people are hoping the mine will reopen but these issues all need to be addressed, he added.
“If there were no solutions that would be one thing but there are solutions.”
Port Morien resident LeRoy Peach said he can’t speak for the community but knows there are some residents who are not in favour of the mine reopening under present conditions because of noise pollution and greenhouse gas emissions tied to coal.
“Kameron Coal tried to mitigate this unacceptable noise by stacking four shipping containers in front of large fans but it didn’t work,” he said.
LeRoy Peach said residents worked with officials at all levels of government to try and solve the problem and there has been significant involvement with the Environment Department.
“Nova Scotia Environment said the emissions and noise levels were acceptable, so the silencers were never deployed,” he said.