Nova Scotia Power Plans 2nd Round of Donkin Coal Tests

It may be dark as a dungeon way down in most mines, but the sun always seems to be shining on Donkin — at least, that’s the impression you’d get from the coverage of the coal mine in the Cape Breton Post.

Take the latest front-page ode to the mine’s new wash plant, which begins:

Officials at the Donkin Mine have dug up some more good news in conjunction with the only coal mine on the island.

“More good news” about coal in 2017 — where, except the Post (and Breitbart) are you going to get that?



Shannon Campbell, vice president of project development and external affairs for Kameron Collieries, the American-owned company that operates the Donkin mine, says the wash plant uses gravity to separate the coal from things their customers don’t want, like “shale and limestone.”

(Source: Morien Resources Corp

(Source: Morien Resources Corp

Not that Donkin actually has any customers, as he admits later on:

Campbell said the mine is working on securing customers.

“We are working with one potential customer and the testing of our coal is underway.”

I don’t know why the Post chose to keep the identity of Donkin’s “one potential customer” a secret since we already know it’s Nova Scotia Power (NSP), which the Post itself reported was testing Donkin coal back in 2016.

I contacted NSP to ask what the result of that initial test burn was and spokesperson Tiffany Chase didn’t tell me. But she did say, in an email:

We tested an initial batch of Donkin coal at our Lingan Generating Station from June to August this year. Donkin recently added a wash plant to their operations on-site, which is expected to produce a higher quality coal product. We expect to test another batch that goes through the new production process at Lingan over the next several months.

Okay, she kind of did tell me — if the results of the first tests had been wonderful, there would be no need for a second round with the “higher quality coal product.” But the problem with Donkin coal from NSP’s perspective, is not “limestone and shale” but sulfur.

Here’s what then-NSP spokesperson Bev Ware told the Post in 2016:

“We need to ensure that coal comes at the right price for our customers, and that’s why we have to carry out the test burn.”

…Ware said Nova Scotia coal tends to be higher in constituents such as sulphur. She said that’s why they use Nova Scotia coal in smaller quantities, then mix it with cleaner imported coal. She said that allows NSPI to economically meet environment emission requirements…

“We need the results, we need to know what equipment needs to be in place in our plants to mitigate that presence of sulphur, and we can’t move ahead with that until we know the constituents of the coal.”


Climate change?

Donkin mine. (Photo via Morien Resources Inc image gallery

Donkin mine. (Photo via Morien Resources Inc image gallery

But the Post was too busy telling us that over 1,000 contractors “lots and lots of them…local folks” have had a hand in “building Donkin” to get into boring details about sulfur content.

Nor did it have time, although it has been covering the ravages of this season’s hurricanes as assiduously as any news outlet (more assiduously than some — who else thought to interview a burlesque dancer from Ottawa Brook about Irma?) to spare a thought for the connections between coal and climate change.

Perhaps our paper of record views the potential environmental impact of Donkin the way a former CBRM councilor did:

Kevin Saccary, a regional councillor in Cape Breton, said Donkin is big enough to provide much-needed jobs but small enough that it ”certainly isn’t going to have a so-called devastating effect on our world environment.”

Which, let’s face it, is the kind of logic that tells you it’s okay to pee in the pool.

You can’t talk about coal in this day and age without acknowledging the environmental impacts of its production and use. Even when you carefully avoid any mention of the environment, as the Post did in its puff piece on the Donkin wash plant, the environment sneaks in — the “one potential customer” for Donkin coal is Nova Scotia Power and NSP’s concerns about the coal are, amazingly enough, environmental.