For immediate release:
Recent reports that the idled Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton may soon reopen is cause for alarm.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency have made it abundantly clear that countries must rapidly transition away from fossil fuels—particularly coal—if we are to have any chance at containing global heating to 1.5°C.
Donkin mine ceased operations in 2020, following stop-work orders and more than a dozen roof collapses in the underground mine over the span of just a few years. In a media statement released on March 30, 2020, Kameron Collieries ULC, the owner and operator of the mine, announced, “Donkin coal mine has decided to cease production operations due to adverse geologic conditions in the mine.”
So what’s changed? Nothing, except the price of coal, which is up more than 200 percent over last year, hovering close to $400 US a ton.
What hasn’t changed is the huge environmental impact of resuming mining operations, and the “adverse geologic conditions” that continue to make the mine unsafe for workers.
“Too often the promise of good-paying jobs stifles important conversations about environmental impact and counters any dissent,” says Tynette Deveaux, with Sierra Club Canada’s Beyond Coal Atlantic campaign. “Reopening the mine would further pollute the local environment, impact community health, and put miners’ safety at risk. We don’t need another mining disaster in this province.”
If operations resume, the Donkin mine will produce metallurgical coal, used in steelmaking. Metallurgical coal is mined at deeper depths and produces even more greenhouse gas emissions per ton than thermal coal, which is burned for electricity. Nova Scotia cannot achieve its greenhouse gas reduction targets and mine coal.
Donkin mine has been in idle mode for more than two years. It’s time to shut down the mine once and for all.
“Even when coal mines are idled, like Donkin mine is currently, they continue to emit a lot of fugitive methane emissions,” says Maggie Bunbury, Clean Energy Researcher with the Beyond Coal Atlantic campaign. “That’s why they have to have ventilation fans operating 24/7 at the entrance to the mine. Those fans are giving off harmful low-frequency noise that local residents have described as ‘sleep torture’. The only way to stop the methane emissions—and the noise from the fans—is to close the mine for good.”
“The provincial government needs to look at this mine carefully through a climate and social justice lens,” says Deveaux. “If the government allows Donkin mine to reopen, they’re either saying they don’t believe the science that the IPCC and other international bodies have put forth—or, they’re saying, ‘Let the Hunger Games begin.’ This will be an important test for the Houston government. We’re about to find out if this government is serious about supporting a green transition or if it’ll be business as usual.”
Beyond Coal Atlantic Campaign Coordinator
Sierra Club Canada
Beyond Coal Atlantic, Clean Energy Researcher
Sierra Club Canada