News of a potential buyer for a new coal mine in Cape Breton is being met with mixed reaction in the community. The mine could provide hundreds of new jobs but has the potential to hurt the local fishing industry.

The Donkin colliery has been up for sale since last spring, when its developer, Xstrata, decided the mine was too small a venture for a company focused on mega projects.

The Nova Scotia government says a buyer for the mine could be announced within weeks, and the mine could be up and running sometime next year.

“People have been sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for something to happen here,” local Coun. Kevin Saccary told CTV Atlantic. “It is certainly welcoming news to Cape Bretoners that there is a company interested in coming to town to do business.”

The mine could create as many as 300 direct mining jobs, and the undersea facility is believed to have enough coal to remain operational for at least 50 years.

However, local fishermen are concerned that the method used to transport the coal may kill their local industry. Last year, Xstrata revealed it planned to transport the coal via barges, which would traverse local fishing grounds, to waiting ships.

If the new buyer sticks with that plan, local fishermen fear consequences such as coal spills on lobster beds, ship collisions and, in the event that a new loading pier is built, disruptions to natural fish habitats.

“If this barging is forced on us, it is going to be the end of our fishing industry in this area,” Bernie MacDonald of the local Inshore Fishermen’s Association told CTV.

The fishermen say the coal be shipped on a new railway that can be built on a local rail bed that has been abandoned for three-quarters of a century. Xstrata said last year it was against that option, saying it would double the cost of moving the coal compared to using barges.

If the new buyer agrees, that could set up a showdown with local fishermen.

MacDonald said his organization “welcomes” a new buyer and hopes that the mine gets up and running.

“But we were opposed, and (are) still opposed, to using barges to ship coal,” he said.

With a report from CTV Atlantic’s Randy MacDonald