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Cape Breton coal mine planning to reopen despite climate crisis

Atlantic Activist

This morning, the Beyond Coal Atlantic team issued a press release calling for the complete shutdown of the Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton.

Unless you live in Cape Breton, there’s a good chance you’re not even aware the mine exists. The underground (and subsea) mine began coal production in 2017 and ceased operations in April 2020, following more than a dozen roof collapses and repeated stop-work orders from the Department of Labour. Since then, the mine has been in “care and maintenance” mode, also known as “idle.”

However, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, coal prices have soared, and now the company that owns Donkin mine is looking to cash in on this latest fossil fuel bonanza. 

So, once again, Nova Scotia finds itself at a fork in the road: Will we embrace business as usual or say no to mining more coal?

Of course, it’s not really a decision most of us will be given the opportunity to weigh in on. Power is wielded by a small but powerful elite. But there are some things we can do.

First, we can be vigilant: Notice what claims the company CEOs and managers make (are they promoting “clean” coal, for example?). Are elected leaders and government bureaucrats claiming that mining coal will be good for the province? What does that mean, exactly? Who stands to benefit the most? How is the media reporting on the issue? Is it bringing a critical analysis? Or is the mainstream media ignoring the story?

Second, we can connect the dots: How is reopening Donkin mine connected to Premier Higgs floating the idea of reviving shale gas exploration in New Brunswick? Who has easy access to government decision-makers? Irving, WestFor, Atlantic Gold, Equinor? Who’s not at those closed-door meetings? Are Treaty rights being respected? Have Mi’kmaw communities been fully consulted? Have Mi’kmaq given free, prior and informed consent to the mining operation on their unceded territory?

Third, we can ask ourselves, Does mining coal make sense? Is it compatible with what we know about climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Does it stack up against provincial and federal climate action plans and environmental legislation? Must we suspend our common sense in order to reconcile this and other decisions made by companies, industries, or governments?

Lastly, we can study their manoeuvres and learn the playbook: Will elected officials support reopening the mine and take credit for bringing jobs back to Cape Breton, no matter the cost? Will they offer alternatives to mining jobs or will unemployed workers have to choose between mining or not making ends meet? Will the power brokers sow division, pitting miners against those who say fossil fuels must remain in the ground? Will they encourage us to fight with each other rather than tackle the systems that are driving these modern-day Hunger Games?

The bottom line is this: Nova Scotia cannot mine coal and meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets. If you have any doubt about that, I encourage you to check out this Donkin mine factsheet we’ve assembled for you.

So what will it be? Will we choose coal or transition away from fossil fuels?

If we don’t have a meaningful say in the decision, will we shrug it off? What will it take before we draw a line in the sand and say, not one more inch? 


Tynette Deveaux 
Beyond Coal Atlantic
Sierra Club Canada 


P.S. Here’s an article on Donkin mine and the concerns raised by Sierra Club Canada, published this morning in Canada’s National Observer. Controversial Cape Breton coal mine eyes possibility of reopening | Canada’s National Observer: News & Analysis

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