Donkin Coal Mine

Methane Gas Leak

Canada's Invisible Secret

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

The Donkin Coal Mine on the Donkin Peninsula in Cape Breton Island is the source of Canada's largest methane gas leak.

Uncontrolled Methane Gas Leak

The Pandora's Box Has Been Opened

Being invisible doesn't mean the uncontrolled natural gas leak at the Donkin Mine is harmless.

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a greenhouse gas 86 times more potent than CO2 over 20 years.

<b>Donkin Coal Mine Methane Exhausting Tunnel</b>
Donkin Coal Mine Methane Exhausting Tunnel

As per the guidance of Canadian Environment Assesssment Agency (CEA Agency 2003) - the Donkin Coal mine is classified as a "high emitter" of methane gas.

After 13 roof falls, a provincial stop-work order because of a methane fire and the installation of larger ventilation fans to handle the enormous methane gas released -- the Donkin Mine ceased production operations.

TWO YEARS LATER, the Donkin Mine is still exhausting the most potent greenhouse gas, methane, uncontrolled and unreported directly into the atmosphere at an enormous rate.

Serious Methane Emissions Questions

1) Why were larger ventilation fans required to be installed for a single exhaust tunnel when the original fans were designed to handle two exhaust tunnels for the 30-years of the mine life?

2) Was the Donkin Mine exceeding the methane exhausting capapcity of the single exhuast tunnel, hence the need for larger fans?

For The Record

A) During it's three years of coal production the Donkin Mine didn't have a Greenhouse Gas Management Plan - the plan was finally submitted eights months after the mine closed!

B) As a large emitter of methane gas, the Donkin Mine never reported their mandatory annual methane emissions to either the Federal or Provincial reporting for the years of 2017, 2018 or 2019.


1) The Federal and Provincial regulations need major improvements towards public methane reporting to demonstrate the mine's compliance.

If Canada and Nova Scotia is serious about preventing a climate crisis of global temperatures rising, they should start with tougher regulations to slash methane emissions from the Donkin Coal Mine.

Additional Mitigation Failures

NOISE POLLUTION -- Community Health at Risk

So loud are the much larger ventilation fans that they are disturbing sleep to local families kilometres beyond the mine's property boundaries.

An expert at the Industrial Noise Centre analysis of the above audio recording states that the low-fequency noise from the Donkin Mine is the worst they've seen in over 30 years.

Incredulously, two years have passed, and;

  • Over 65 noise complaints;
  • Support from local elected officials;
  • Scientific evidence from a noise expert;
  • Extensive media coverage (see sidebar);
  • Multiple audio recordings of adverse levels of noise;
  • Vigorous community action.

Still no fan silencers installed.

Premier Tim Houston

The Honourable Tim Houston's government is knowingly exposing Nova Scotian families to harmful low-fequency noise and the following adverse effects on health and well-being recognized by the World Health Organization.

  • Sleep disturbance; headaches; unusual fatigue; lack of concentration; irritation and stress.

    Mercury Pollution

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

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.

The discussion of mercury was completely absent within the Donkin Mine's Environmental Assessment.

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.

See community concerns expressed through local media coverage here, here, here and here.

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.

Bird Species at Risk

<b>Guillemont: Species At Risk</b>
Guillemont: Species At Risk

Morien (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.

The diverse terrestrial habitats of the Donkin peninsula are known to provide habitat for a large number of species, including a number of birds listed under either the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) or the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act (NS ESA) or “sensitive” within the province by NSDNR have been recorded in or near the Donkin Mine.

Due to harmful noise levels especially during breeding season the birds are not being protected.

Where Are We Now


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.


The Honourable
Tim Houston
Premier of Nova Scotia
Send an Email

The Honourable
Tim Halman
Minister of Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change
Send an Email

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



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.


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.


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.

May - The Honourable Keith Irving, Minister of Nova Scotia Environment meets with the Cow Bay Environmental Coalition.

June - We are told once again that the Donkin Mine is engaging with the UK-based Industrial Noise & Vibration Centre to assist in resolving the noise issue. See Nov. 23, 2020.


  • 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

  • Cap-Op Energy Inc. March 2016. GHG Mitigation Options for Underground Coal Mines Report to Nova Scotia Environment.

  • 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.