Cape Breton Post

DONKIN MINE

Donkin mine seismic testing planned for this fall has been postponed

- BY CHRIS SHANNON chris.shannon@cbpost.com Twitter: @cbpost_chris

Seismic testing has been delayed.

The owner of the Donkin mine has backed away from its decision to begin seismic testing off Cape Breton this year.

Instead, Kameron Coal has postponed the seismic testing program until “later next year,” it said in a brief statement Friday, in order to give the company more time to field questions and concerns from the community.

Fishermen, especially, have been vehemently opposed to the testing from ever going ahead.

Following the announceme­nt, Herb Nash, president of the Glace Bay Harbour Authority and president of the 4VN Groundfish Management Board, said he is willing to sit down to talk with mine officials but his fundamenta­l position will not change.

“I was hoping the (seismic testing) would go away forever but I’m quite happy to see it put off for a year,” he said.

A group of fishermen will meet with Kameron Coal periodical­ly over the next year, Nash said, in a bid to help the mine find a solu- tion to its problems without moving forward with seismic testing.

The company laid off 49 employees last week — a total of 15 Kameron Coal workers and the remainder being contractor­s — because the equipment used in mining the coal wasn’t suited to the conditions encountere­d and severely held back productivi­ty.

There remains 70 people working at the mine.

At the time the layoffs were announced, Shannon Campbell, vice-president of the Donkin mine, said Kameron Coal took a “big risk” by opening the mine under its current operationa­l plan.

“But the data tells us and our productivi­ty and our cash flow tells us that it doesn’t work,” he said.

Campbell wasn’t speaking to the media on Friday.

In a statement released from the company’s public relations firm, it said, “We have a great working relationsh­ip with our stakeholde­rs and we respect their concerns. The seismic program will proceed as planned next year, as this is essential to help us better understand the geology of the mine.”

The Cape Breton Post posed questions to Kameron Coal’s communicat­ions office but did not receive a response before deadline.

During a meeting between fishermen and mine officials on Tuesday in Donkin, which attracted about 150 people, assurances from a marine geoscienti­st and Fisheries and Oceans Canada marine biologists on the impact on fish and other marine life were not enough to convince those loudly opposed to the plan.

Dannie Hansen, Louisbourg Seafoods vice-president of sustainabi­lity, said at the meeting fishermen would seek a court injunction or appeal to the fisheries minister if the testing was to go ahead.

It was at that point mine officials requested a closed-door meeting the next day with Nash and other representa­tives of the fishermen.

“It’s a $30-million (fishing) industry out there in just that section so Herb, the fishermen, and us — the processors — don’t want to hurt the miners but we will not allow any injury or detriment to our fishing stocks,” Hansen said on Friday.

Meanwhile, Nash expressed frustratio­n at Fisheries and Oceans Canada for not informing fishermen that seismic testing was planned for the waters off Donkin.

“Fishing was very good last year and is getting better every year and every year we’re doing more stuff for conservati­on to help rebuild the stocks. It’s at the point where it’s starting to pay off,” he said.

“We weren’t even notified on (the seismic testing) until about a week-and-a-half ago. We were left out of the picture altogether. DFO approved this and I blame it on DFO more than anything because they should have been the first ones to come to us.”

However, Fisheries and Oceans Canada said it was the responsibi­lity of Kameron Coal to inform fishermen of the seismic testing and when it would occur.

“As an authorizat­ion under the Fisheries Act or a permit under the Species at Risk Act (notificati­on) is not required for (seismic) activity,” department spokespers­on Debbie BuottMathe­son said in an email.

“The department did not undertake stakeholde­r consultati­ons. The decision to notify or consult with stakeholde­rs would come from the proponent.”

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