Nova Scotia's minister for energy and mines said with news of the latest rockfall at Donkin Mine, his ultimate concern is for the safety of employees.
“Safety is the number one priority for all of us,” said Derek Mombourquette, also the Liberal MLA for Sydney-Whitney Pier, during a post-cabinet scrum with reporters Thursday.
Mombourquette said mining operations are a good economic opportunity for the community and have been for a very long time but "safety trumps everything.”
There was another rockfall at the Kameron Collieries Donkin Mine last weekend and Mombourquette said the Department of Labour and Advanced Education responded immediately.
Whenever an incident like this takes place, the labour department is the lead department investigating, while at energy and mines they monitor the situation, he said.
The labour department puts a number of processes in place in instances like this, whether it's Donkin or any other operation around the province. Labour and advanced education constantly monitors the situation, conducts inspections on site and brings experts in.
“We’re watching it but LAE (labour and advanced education) is really the lead and they are doing the work,” he said.
Mombourquette said the role of energy and mines is as a regulator for the Mineral Resources Act, reclamation plans and what the company in question is doing in the community.
In the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Mombourquette said there is a long history of mining and they’ve been very successful at it. Thousands of Nova Scotians have worked in mine operations across the province. The number one concern for him as MLA is to ensure when these opportunities for communities arise they are doing their part to ensure safety and that the company in question is following the Mineral Resources Act.
In a story in the Cape Breton Post on Wednesday, Scott Nauss, the senior director of inspections and compliance with the labour department, said the weekend rockfall was in a production area, about 70 feet from where Donkin was last mining.
There was no production going on at the time. The night shift came in over the weekend and noticed the fall.
The mine cordoned off the area and reported it to the department first thing Monday morning. Land advanced education issued a stop-work order for that section of the mine. Nauss said the investigation will look into whether Donkin Mine followed its ground control plan or not.
The mine has been issued two followup orders: To clean up the rockfall and to do an assessment to determine what happened and implement some corrective measures to prevent a reoccurrence.
Since the coal mine opened in 2017, there have been 11 rockfalls but some occurred in travelways that were no longer being used and some were in abandoned portions of the mine.
'Safety is the number one priority for all of us' — Derek Mombourquette
When contacted for comment, officials at Donkin Mine referred the Post to a press release regarding the rockfall that had been sent out Tuesday. In the release, Shannon Campbell, vice-president of Donkin Mine, said the company notified labour and advanced education of the rockfall immediately and government inspectors were on site Monday. As is normal procedure in such instances, mining inspectors issued a stop-work order for the area of the mine impacted by the rockfall.
Production at the Donkin underground coal mine has been limited to one of its two production sections while repairs are underway to clear the roof fall. No one was injured or any equipment damage and no one was in the area when the incident occurred.
While the roof fall was localized and affected only one intersection, Donkin Mine officials said they will be working with labour and advanced education to take remedial action. There are 150 employed at the mine.
The mine was purchased by the Cline Group in 2014 and opened in February 2017. In February 2018, the mine saw its first coal production.