The Chronicle Herald (Metro)

Nova Scotia Power eyeing Donkin coal


DONKIN – An executive with Nova Scotia Power has revealed that the Emera-owned electricit­y utility is holding confidenti­al talks with Kameron Collieries about its Donkin coal mine.

NSP vice-president commercial David Landrigan made the disclosure on Wednesday while under crossexami­nation at the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) hearing into the power company’s applicatio­n to increase its rates by 11.6 per cent rate by 2024.

Landrigan was responding to Melissa Macadam, a hearing intervenor appearing as the small business advocate, who asked how NSP is pursuing opportunit­ies to reduce the cost of solid fuel and natural gas, and if domestic coal was something that the utility was considerin­g.

“I’ll limit my answer to we’re in detailed discussion­s,” said Landrigan, according to the official transcript of the proceeding­s.

“I think it’s public knowledge that the Donkin coal mine has started up again, and so we’re in confidenti­al discussion­s in the pursuit of commercial arrangemen­ts with them.”

The Donkin coal mine reopened last week after receiving the required approval from the province.


It might be an understate­ment to suggest that news of the negotiatio­ns between Nova Scotia Power and Kameron Collieries came as a big surprise.

After all, both the federal and provincial government­s have set a target of 2030 for the eliminatio­n of all coal-fired electricit­y generation. Nova Scotia has also declared its intent to have renewables comprise 80 per cent of the province’s energy production.

Indeed, NSP recently announced that it has placed one of its four Lingan generating units into ‘cold reserve,’ a term used to indicate that the unit is shut down but is ready to be returned to service in the case of an emergency situation in which more capacity is needed to meet the customer demand.

And while coal may no longer be king in Cape Breton, the black fossil fuel is still powering just over half of Nova Scotia’s electricit­y generation.

According to the latest Canada Energy Regulator statistics, coal-fired units produce about 51 per cent of the province’s power. The 2019 figures also show that renewable sources of energy, including wind, hydro, solar and biomass, account for just 24 per cent of the electricit­y produced in Nova Scotia.

The question is how much those numbers will change before 2030.


One of coal’s most vocal critics is Tynette Deveaux of the Halifax-based Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Atlantic campaign. She said she was extremely disappoint­ed to hear about the discussion­s between NSP and Kameron Collieries.

“It’s crazy because the Donkin mine has always wanted us to know that the coal mined there is metallurgi­cal and is used in the steel-making process and as such is not subject to the 2030 deadline,” said Deveaux.

“But now it’s suddenly convenient for Nova Scotia Power to say they may use local fuel and that Donkin mine’s dirty coal is suddenly being touted for potential thermal use.

“The fact that Nova Scotia Power is once again prolonging the phase-out of coal-fired electricit­y is thoroughly discouragi­ng. And it’s concerning that we only learned of this by chance because they were having their hearing before the UARB.”

Deveaux also cited studies that indicate the Donkin mine is likely the largest methane emitter in Nova Scotia.

“Mining operations like this always end up costing us more than they’re worth in the long run,” she said.

“Taxpayers will be on the hook for the cost of toxic cleanups, repairing roads damaged by the haul trucks and the public inquiries following mining disasters – the list goes on.”

Deveaux also points out that the Cape Breton Regional Municipali­ty has to annually treat approximat­ely six billion litres of contaminat­ed wastewater from abandoned mines.

She also suggested that a less-thanexpect­ed share of the electricit­y produced at Muskrat Falls, Labrador and transmitte­d to Nova Scotia through the Maritime Link is putting pressure on Nova Scotia Power to shore up its energy sources.


Prior to its reopening last week, the Donkin mine had been closed since March 2020 due to then-cited ‘geological concerns,’ although a skeleton crew had kept the east Cape Breton operation on standby. Two huge industrial fans have been in constant use to keep the mine shafts ventilated and dry.

The reopening comes amid ongoing concerns about noise pollution, mine safety and greenhouse gas emissions.

Deveaux also stated that Morien Resources, a royalty stakeholde­r in the Donkin mine, confirmed that the provincial government receives royalties of just $1.20 per ton of coal mined at Donkin while coal is now trading for about $340 USD per ton.


There are presently eight coal-fired generating units in Nova Scotia. Six of the units are in Cape Breton. There are four at the Lingan station, which has a production capacity of 620 megawatts, and one each at the Point Aconi (171 MW) and Point Tupper (154 MW) generating facilities. The other two units are located at the 307-MW Trenton station. All four stations are operated by Nova Scotia Power.

NSP senior communicat­ions advisor Jacqueline Foster said the flow of Labrador-produced electricit­y over the Maritime Link allows the utility to continue to adhere to its timeline of phasing out coal.

“As we secure a firm supply of energy from within the province or from imports, this will allow us to phase out another coal unit in Nova Scotia in the next couple of years,” confirmed Foster.

“And we will continue to phase out our remaining coal units over the next approximat­ely seven years. The arrival of the Nova Scotia block of energy from Muskrat Falls (a four-unit, 824-megawatt hydroelect­ric generating facility in Labrador) represents an important step in our transition off coal and providing cleaner reliable energy to our customers.”

The Lingan generating station, which cost an estimated $400 million to construct, began producing power in 1979. Since 2012, two of the site’s four units have been shut down in the summer months when consumer demand is lower.

For its first 20 years, the Lingan plant burned coal mined locally from the Sydney Coal Field. However, with the closure of the Prince Mine in 2001, the facility began using imported coal. And with the imposition of stricter emissions regulation­s, the internatio­nally-acquired coal now being used contains fewer pollutants than Cape Breton coal.

 ?? DAVID JALA ■ CAPE BRETON POST ?? Nova Scotia Power, operator of the Lingan Generating Station in Cape Breton, has put one of the plant’s four coal-fired units into “cold service.” The electricit­y utility earlier this week confirmed it is involved in discussion­s of a commercial nature with the nearby Donkin mine which reopened last week after a 30-month closure.
DAVID JALA ■ CAPE BRETON POST Nova Scotia Power, operator of the Lingan Generating Station in Cape Breton, has put one of the plant’s four coal-fired units into “cold service.” The electricit­y utility earlier this week confirmed it is involved in discussion­s of a commercial nature with the nearby Donkin mine which reopened last week after a 30-month closure.

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