U.S. Mining Experts to Tour Canada's Donkin Mine as Concerns Mount Over Rockfalls
By Sharon Montgomery-Dupe
March 10, 2020 - Mining experts from the United States will be touring the Kameron Collieries Donkin mine next week as a result of deep concern over recent rock falls.
Scott Nauss, senior director of inspection and compliance for the Department of Labor, said experts from Mine Safety and Health Administration will be touring various parts of the coal mine but will mainly focus on the area of the most recent rock falls.
The entrance/exit to the Kameron Collieries Donkin Mine.
Cape Breton Post file photo
MSHA is the federally regulating body for coal mining in the United States.
“This coal seams appears to be particularly challenging and this area of the coal seam seems to have some particularly challenging geology,” Nauss said. “We want to make sure that we have world renowned experts come up and study this section so such that corrective measures can be brought forward.”
Kameron Collieries has also procured some of their own experts.
Nauss said these world-renowned ground control experts from MSHA will also be reviewing any reports that the experts from Kameron will be proposing.
A stop work order was placed on all mining production at Donkin mine on Feb. 13, after a rock fall during a shift. There were 35-40 miners underground at the time. There were no injuries.
On Feb. 3 employees arriving to work in the coal mine discovered a rockfall had occurred sometime over the weekend in an intersection of a production area, about 70 feet from where they were last mining. There wasn’t any production or mining taking place during that weekend.
Both of the last two rock falls occurred at intersections in close proximity to each other.
Nauss said coal was being produced in two sections of Donkin Mine, one where the most recent rock fall occurred and the other where there it hadn’t. Nauss said the stop work order remains in effect in the area where the rock fall occurred.
Meanwhile sometime in the evening of Friday, March 6, the Labour department lifted the stop work order on the other portion of the coal mine.
“They are allowed to resume mining in that portion only,” he said.
However Nauss said there has been a change to the ground control plan in that area of the mine. The cable bolts in the intersections have been increased again. The bolts — used in the roof —are now 20 ft. long. Nauss said they’ve progressed from 8 ft. to 12 ft. and now to 20 ft. The labor department has also doubled the monitoring requirements.
“That has been a progressive thing with each rock fall we’ve asked them to increase the monitoring.”
The mine has what is referred to as ‘tell-tale indicators.’ The indicators are installed in the roof and they monitor any movement in the roof. If the roof begins to move there’d be a leading indicator of roof issues.
“We had actually doubled them as a result of the rock fall before that, so we’ve doubled twice since 2019, the number of monitoring,” he said. “We will also be upping out inspection efforts as well.”
Since the coal mine opened in 2017, there have been 12 rockfalls. However, some occurred in travel ways that are no longer being used and some were in abandoned portions of the mine.
The majority of rock falls have occurred in intersections — where two roadways meet, known to be the weakest spot of a mine.
In a news release Paul McEachern, a spokesperson for Donkin Mine, also said the stop work order was lifted in one section of the coal mine allowing a resumption of mining in that area.
MacEachern said this is the headgate section of the mine. The tailgate section will remain idle until the labour department lifts that stop work order.
“Kameron Coal is looking forward to getting back to full production as soon as possible,” added.