Donkin Coal Mine

They arrived, then left us…with an environmental disaster

Canada's Environmental Disaster

Donkin Coal Mine

<b>Donkin Peninsula, Nova Scotia</b>
Donkin Peninsula, Nova Scotia

The Donkin Mine on the Donkin Peninsula in Cape Breton Island has created the following significant environmental challenges for the Province of Nova Scotia and all Canadians.

Canada's Invisible Secret

Uncontrolled Methane Gas Leak

Being invisible doesn't mean the uncontrolled Donkin Mine natural gas leak is harmless. The most potent greenhouse gas, methane, continues to be vented directly into the atmosphere at an enormous rate.

Donkin mine methane exhaust tunnel: note the caution tape and hazard screen
Donkin mine methane exhaust tunnel: note the caution tape and hazard screen

The Pandora's Box Has Been Opened

<b>The Donkin Mine</b> is one of the largest emitter of methane gas in Canada
The Donkin Mine is one of the largest emitter of methane gas in Canada

The Donkin Mine Was Warned

The Donkin Mine was warned that breaching adverse geologic conditions would be a source of roof falls, enormous volumes of methane gas and water.

After 12 roof falls, a methane fire and installing larger ventilation fans to handle the enormous methane gas released -- the Donkin Mine ceased production operations a short seven months later -- citing adverse geologic conditions.

A skeleton crew of workers remain to ensure the methane ventilation fans and water pumps remain running indefinitely.

Over a year later, the larger ventilation fans are still exhausting methane gas at an enourmous rate -- so loud that they are disturbing sleep to local families kilometres away from the mine site.

Presently, there is no guidance from Provincial or Federal authorities on how long it will take to control or mitigate the gas leak or noise pollution from the Donkin Coal Mine.

Potemkin Regulators

The Great Cover-up

Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change has allowed the Donkin Mine to under-reported methane pollution for years by relying on computer model estimates based on coal production only.

One of the largest greenhouse gas emitter in Canada is not required to provide exact real-time methane measurements.

  • The company has not reported as required to the federal National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) or the GHG Reporting (GHGRP) Program.

  • The required Federal and Provincial Greenhouse Gas Management Plans haven't been submitted.

Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change does not release fugitive methane emissions amounts to the public.

All Canadians Are None The Wiser

Mitigation Failures

Noise Pollution

The Donkin mine replaced the existing fans with two larger ventilation fans without installing the supplied silencers.

Local families are unable to sleep due to the elevated noise levels emanating from the ventilation fans and have registered over thirty (30+) noise complaints.

Listen to audio of adverse noise levels emanating from the Donkin Mine.

It's common sense that mitigation is required if noise levels cause widespread complaints or strong community reaction - that is the premise for noise guidelines in the first place, to avoid disturbance or annoyance to neighbouring residents.

Health Risk: Low-frequency Exposure

The Industrial Noise & Vibration Centre did a spectral analysis on the above audio recording and provided the following graph showing the existence of significant low-frequency tonal hum.

<b>Low-frequency tone</b>
Low-frequency tone

The UK-based company states noise from the Donkin Mine is the worst they've seen in over 30 years.

Solution: Easy and Quick

A UK-based company has an easy and quick solution -- a design modification to the ventilation fan housing.

The Donkin Mine incredulously refuses to implement.

Bird Species at Risk

Guillemont: Species At Risk
Guillemont: Species At Risk

Cow Bay, one of the most bird-rich areas in all of Nova Scotia, is considered to be "globally significant” as a result of providing nesting, feeding and migratory bird habitat.

Due to harmful low-frequency noise the following "Species at Risk" are not protected.

  • Black-legged Kittiwake, Spurred Gentian, Great & Double Crested Coromorant, Black Guiliemont, Peregrine Falcon, Harlequin Duck and Razor Bill.

    Mercury Pollution

Mercury is released directly into the atmosphere when the coal from Donkin Mine is burned at local and overseas coal-fired generation plants.

Mercury that we send into the air and water comes back to us in seafood.

Mercury is a particular concern for child-bearing-aged women and growing children.

Unsafe Roads

Degradation of community roadways and safety as well as noise and air pollution resulting from the transportation of coal overland by heavy B-Train diesel trucks.

A heavy truck pass-by is very loud at 95 dBA.

Drinking Water at Risk

To wash mercury and high levels of sulphur from the extracted coal, the Donkin Mine is pulling out drinking water from the Donkin Reservoir.

Dug wells providing drinking water for local families are at risk of running dry in the future.

Waste Coal Toxicity Risk

High levels of mercury and sulphur are contained within the on-site waste coal piles at the Donkin Mine.

Coal waste piles contain lead, mercury, arsenic and selenium, which are highly toxic.

The surrounding land and surface water will be at significant contamination risk due to heavy metal and acid drainage runoff.

Where Are We Now

Action

No jobs. No economic development. Community health at risk. A global environmental legacy that also endangers our children's future.

Public discourse and political action is warranted.

Contact

The Honourable
Jonathan Wilkinson
Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Send an Email

The Honourable
Keith Irving
Minister of Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change
Send an Email

The Honourable
Ian Rankin
Premier of Nova Scotia
Send an Email

Timeline

2019

Aug. 19 - Donkin Mine installs larger ventilation fans without the supplied silencers.

Oct. 2 - A resident registers a formal noise complaint to Nova Scotia Environment.

Oct. 9 - A week later, the Donkin Mine states that the issue is the ventilation fans. There are things they can do to resolve the noise issue.

Nov. 13 - Community Liaison Committee (CLC) is aware of the noise issue.

Dec. 15 - It take three months and the Donkin Mine is preparing a noise review process and will report back.

  • The Donkin Mine never did report back with the results of their noise review process.

2020

January - Nova Scotia Environment receives two additional complaints from area residents.

Jan. 8 - The Donkin Mine is now working on a workable concept to resolve complaints.

Jan. 31 - Four months have transpired and mine management is looking into installing the fan silencers.

Jan. 31 - Nova Scotia Environment takes three months to investigate and acknowledge elevated noise levels emanating from the Donkin mine.

Mar. 5 - Five months later and the Donkin Mine states they have engaged with a third party consultant to resolve the noise issue.

March 30 - The Donkin mine abruptly stops production and commences hot idle status.

April 29 - Instead of installing the fan silencers, the Donkin Mine places shipping containers in front of ventilation fans.

  • The shipping containers are unsuccessful in mitigating the noise.

June 2 - Nova Scotia Environment states they have no regulatory authority to take action.

From July to October - The Honourable Gordon Wilson, Minister of Nova Scotia Environment, responds with repetitive rhetoric and disingenuous statements to numerous residents.

Nov. 12 - Our local MLA states that he has received at least 30 complaints from families.

Nov. 19 - Donkin Mine states they need three additional months to get a clearer picture of the noise situation.

Nov. 23 - We are told once again that the Donkin Mine is engaging with a third party consultant to assist in resolving the noise issue. See March 5 above.

  • The Donkin Mine already did a noise review process, a workable concept and engaged with a third party consultant to to resolve noise complaints 8 to 10 months ago, see December 15, 2019, January 8, 2020 and March 5, 2020 above.

2021

January 6 - When asked about the consultant's proposed solution, the Donkin Mine responds by stating they do not have time to work on it.

January 21 - The Donkin Mine states they require six additional months. See Nov. 19 above.

February - Donkin Mine delays indefinitely the proposed quick & simple solution by The UK-based Industrial Noise & Vibration Centre.

The Honourable Gordon Wilson, former Minister of Nova Scotia Environment, continued refusal to acknowledge outstanding environmental concerns from local residents with repetitive rhetoric and disingenuous statements.

References

  • To view the full Canadian federal Minister decision and related documents, please visit the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada website here.

  • To view the full Nova Scotia provincial Minister decision and related terms and conditions, please visit the Nova Scotia Department of Environment website here.

  • Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. April 2013. Comprehensive Study Report. Donkin Export Coking Coal Project

  • CBCL Consulting Engineers. October 2008. Donkin Underground Exploration Volume One Environmental Assessment Report.

  • Community Liaison Committee (CLC). January 6, 2020. Minutes of Conference Call Meeting.

  • Industrial Noise and Vibration Centre (INVC). 2021. Spectral Analysis Report. Email.

  • Marston Technical Report. November 2012. Donkin Coal Project.

  • Novus Environmental Inc. August 2014. BLAST Music Event Noise Monitoring Report.

  • Per Facie Evidence. 2019 & 2020. Audio Recordings of Donkin Mine Noise are Available.

  • World Health Organization (WHO). 1995. Community Noise.

  • XSTRATA Coal Limited. July 2012. Environmental Impact Statement for the Donkin Export Coking Coal Project.