There have been 12 rockfalls at the Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton in the span of three years. Danny Cavanagh, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour worries that neither the mine owner nor the Nova Scotia Department of Labour are dealing effectively with safety issues.
Sometimes I think I should change our name from NS Advocate to something like the Daily Broken Record. I’ve been writing about the safety of the Donkin Mine since my Halifax Media Co-op days. Now there are claims that when one third of the workforce was laid off recently, the company targeted those miners who had expressed concern about safety.
Roberta Benefiel, founding director of Grand Riverkeeper, Labrador, is visiting Nova Scotia to remind us that for the people who live there Muskrat Falls is an environmental disaster that will poison traditional food sources and flood indigenous lands. She believes that through the Maritime Link this is Nova Scotia issue as well. “There may not be that many of us, but people do live here. We need to put a face to these people,” Benefiel tells the Nova Scotia Advocate.
Nova Scotia is one of Canada’s most emissions-intensive provinces. Peggy Cameron wrote an open letter to Stephen McNeil pleading to change that. “You need to say “no” to highways and pipelines that increase our use of fossil fuels. Then you need to tackle this short list: increase renewables for Nova Scotian use, not export; shut down coal-fired generating plants; incentivize regenerative agricultural practices; stop clear-cutting and pesticide-spraying; promote afforestation and value-added production; establish a province wide integrated transportation network; and create a net-zero-carbon building programme.”
Back home the American owner of the Donkin mine is facing a mine closure, a potentially very costly dispute with shareholders, lawsuits, and a general move away from coal. No wonder its shares tumbled by 80 percent in 2015.
The safety record of US coal mines operated by the new owner of the Donkin mine is worrisome. That’s why unionization is crucial. “When there is no union there and a worker speaks up, I would hope that the company would listen, but they answer to their shareholders. They have to make money, and sometimes they sidestep these issues.”