Protest in Cape Breton over safety concerns near Donkin mine
A dozen people living near Cape Breton’s Donkin mine protested Friday along the route where trucks haul coal out of the area.
They say the trucks create unsafe conditions for drivers, pedestrians and the environment.
“A lot of people are honking and waving,” protest organizer Catherine Fergusson said. “It’s interesting because you can see their facial expressions. As soon as they see the sign and know what we are doing, their faces light up.”
Fergusson and members of the Cow Bay Coalition — a community group based in Port Morien, NS angered by the impact of the Donkin mine — were on Highway 4 in Reserve Mines at noon, waving signs and attracting the attention of motorists.
Several flatbed trucks designed for the hauling of coal, owned by a company that had a contract to haul product from the mine to Sydney Harbor and Nova Scotia Power’s Lingan station, arrived at the site within half an hour protesters over.
Fergusson said two honked at the protesters and one ran a red light.
She said the trucks posed road hazards, damaging the surface and spreading diesel fumes and coal dust.
In addition, the Donkin mine’s worker safety citations are a cause for concern, Fergusson said.
But she also realizes that there are people who want to open the mine.
“We need jobs,” Fergusson said. “Jobs are really important in this area. But our jobs have to be safe.”
In 2020, the mine constructed a new road from Brookside Street to Highway 4 to divert traffic from large residential areas near Glace Bay and Reserve Mines.
However, it never opened due to the province having to install traffic controls at the intersections where the road becomes public.
Urges the province to address concerns
Fergusson said if that road is opened it will help but it will do nothing for the people around Donkin and Port Morien.
“It would resolve some of the concerns of local residents who are on that stretch of road,” she said.
“However, they must actually have their own transport system from their gate to the port.”
Fergusson is urging the province to provide better oversight to address residents’ concerns.
“Our government is the regulator and it must do its job to ensure safety for the community, workers and the environment comes first.”
The trucks pass through the Cape Breton Centre-Whitney Pier MLA Kendra Coombes constituency on their way to Lingan or the Sydney jetty.
According to Public Works, trucks don’t have a significant impact on the roads
She said she regularly hears complaints.
“These residents are doing the right thing by raising awareness … to see if something can be worked out.”
In an email, the Public Works Department said the trucks are not having a significant impact on public roads.
It also said work is expected to start this summer to open the new haul road and reduce traffic on public roads.
Mine owner Kameron Coal did not respond to requests for comment.
The Cow Bay Coalition is organizing a community meeting on Sunday 26 March from 2pm to 4pm at the Port Morien Legion to address the issues.
Complaint by the Sierra Club
Meanwhile, the Atlantic Group of the Sierra Club of Canada has lodged an appeal with the province’s environmental protection agency against the Donkin mine’s industrial permit.
Environment Secretary Tim Halman could not be reached for comment Thursday, but the province said a decision on the appeal would be released on April 3.
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