The Canadian Press – Underground coal mining has resumed in Cape Breton, more than 15 years after the fossil fuel was last cut from a rock face beneath the island. Kameron Coal Management Ltd., a subsidiary of U.S. mining giant Cline Group, confirmed Wednesday that 64 employees and contractors have been extracting coal from the Donkin site since Monday night.
“Coal is being produced once again in Cape Breton,” Cline CEO Paul Vining said in a statement, adding that the resource represents “some of the highest quality thermal and metallurgical coal in the world.”
It was a historic moment: Although dormant for nearly a generation, the local industry dates back to the early 1700s, when the French needed coal for their nearby fortress. Coal mining has long been considered a way of life on the island.
The Donkin mine has two shafts about eight metres wide that extend almost four kilometres under the Atlantic Ocean, starting from a location about 30 kilometres east of Sydney.
The project has been criticized by environmental groups as potentially adding to Canada’s contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, and running against the trend in other jurisdictions that are eliminating coal-fired plants.
The company said it is planning to gradually ramp up production as a privately owned road is built to carry the coal to the port of Sydney for export.
As well, local officials say the company is still negotiating with privately owned electric utility Nova Scotia Power, which operates three coal-fired generating stations in the province _ two of them in Cape Breton.
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