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Donkin Mine safety under scrutiny after second stop-work order in a week

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For the second time in a week, there has been a stop-work order at the Donkin Mine.

Nova Scotia's Department of Labour halted work at the coal mine in Donkin, N.S., on Saturday after reports of a rock fall.

A similar pause was ordered early last week when material fell from a mine roof.

"It's not worth it. It's not worth the risk to human lives,” said Cape Breton University political scientist Tom Urbaniak.

Though no injuries were reported in the most recent incidents, Urbaniak points out that the safety orders since the mine first opened in 2017 now number in the dozens.

Repeated stop-work orders following roof falls were part of the reason the mine closed in March 2020, and there have been several more stoppages since it reopened in September 2022.

"We really need to do some soul-searching as a society, as a community, about whether we're going to continue to take these risks and continue to impose the same effects on our region,” Urbaniak said. “There's not a net positive from this mine."

The area's councillor says underground mining always comes with risks, but with roughly 150 people employed at Donkin, it's important to families and the economy.

"From dealings I've had with the mine, it's priority one with them. Safety is priority one,” said James Edwards. "It's good that the inspectors are in there, and they're in there on a regular basis."

Urbaniak says while he's glad provincial officials appear to be taking enforcement seriously, repeated stops and starts at the mine seem like a band-aid solution to a bigger problem.

"The economic benefit is not great, and the risk to human lives is great,” Urbaniak said. "This is now a political issue. It's not simply the public servants continuing to issue stop-work orders or continuing to document violations as they occur. There has to be a higher-level discussion about this, and quickly."

Nova Scotia’s Department of Labour told CTV Atlantic that it's in the early stages of confirming details about the latest incident and couldn’t comment further for now. The Department added that production at Donkin won't resume until they have verified that it's safe.

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