Safety warnings issued to Donkin Mine.
Government officials say 10 compliance orders and 29 warnings issued to the Donkin Mine were mostly “non-imminent danger” violations.
“No lives were ever at risk as a result of any of these violations,” said Scott Nauss, the senior director of inspection and compliance with the Nova Scotia Labour Department’s occupational health and safety division, regarding the warnings issued during the mine’s first three and a half months of operation.
It is difficult to determine if the number of violations is high because this is the first mine operating under new provincial regulations, Nauss said.
“I would expect a large operation like this, operating in a heavily regulated environment, there will be some non-imminent danger violations along the way and that’s for the most part what we are seeing,” he said.
“The company appears to be very committed to safety from what we see. We point out violations and they address them quickly.”
The Donkin Mine is owned by Kameron Collieries, a Halifax subsidiary of the Cline Group. Production began in February.
The occupational health and safety division provided a copy of the workplace inspections at the mine to the Cape Breton Post.
Issues identified included water barriers not meeting code in the event of an emergency evacuation, bump checks not completed as well as improper record keeping.
Nauss said the only imminent dangerous situation occurred March 22 during an ice storm when a power outage impacted the mine’s ventilation system.
When the power goes out, the mine is evacuated and a backup generator should kick in however the backup generator had not been commissioned by Nova Scotia Power, a requirement under the electrical code.
“The stop work order was associated with (the power outage),” said Nauss, adding lives were not at risk because the mine had been evacuated before the backup generator should have started operating.
“The mine (officials have) been very co-operative up to this point and have complied with all our orders.”
Nauss confirmed there has only been one injury at the mine — a contractor who hurt his ankle and returned to work the following day.
Nauss said mines are inspected regularly and most times inspectors arrive unannounced.
“We take this very seriously as it’s a high risk environment. The only mines we want operating in Nova Scotia are safe mines.”
Donkin Mine manager Shannon Campbell said when an inspector comes to the site they are making sure the mine is playing by the rules.
“If they find something I thank them as I don’t want to not play by the rules,” he said.
Campbell said it’s highly unlikely that a violation will not be found during an inspection.
“Given the fact regulations for a subsea underground coal mine are much more stringent than a regular coal mine, it’s not unexpected to have that many compliance orders.
“If they say ‘you can do better’ and provide information for me it’s a gift.”
There are approximately 70 workers at the mine as well as various contractors.
Campbell said the safety of the men and the equipment is the company’s first priority.
“We strive for zero compliance issues but I’ve been in the business long enough to know if we’re going to start a mine we’re not going to not have some learning and improvement opportunities,” he said.
“It’s a new coal mine, new operations and a new mining method and I feel proud of where we are right now.”
Since operations began with the rehabilitation of the mine in 2015 no Kameron employee has had a loss time accident.
Steve Drake worked in the coal mine industry for 23 years including as an industrial electrician at the Lingan Mine and providing electrical safety inspections for Labour Canada.
“I had to do daily, weekly and monthly reports for Labour Canada,” said Drake, who also served as president of District 26 United Mineworkers of America.
“I know a lot about safety underground. With what I’ve read in news reports about the safety infractions at Donkin Mine I would have no problem travelling underground at Donkin Mine. The ultimate responsibility is up to the miners they always have the right to refuse.”