From the Weasel Words Dept: Donkin ‘Makes Changes’ to Its Workforce

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Here’s the press release Kameron Coal Management Ltd issued on Tuesday:

For Immediate Release – Organizational restructure at the Donkin Mine

Donkin, NS, November 7, 2017 – Today Kameron Coal Management Ltd. announced an organizational restructure that resulted in a reduction of the workforce at the Donkin Mine in Nova Scotia.

The Donkin Mine is undergoing a transition and critical changes will be made to the operation. As a result of this transition we have made the difficult but necessary decision to make changes to our workforce”, said Shannon Campbell, Vice President, Donkin Mine. “While this reduction in workforce is difficult, it is necessary to ensure we can work toward becoming an economically viable operation in the future.”

This transition will enable Kameron Coal to make changes to the operational mine plan to better suit the complex geological nature of the Donkin Mine.

Kameron Coal has demonstrated a long-term commitment to its employees, business partners and the local community and looks forward to continuing this commitment.

About the Donkin Mine

The Donkin Mine began operating in March 2017 and is the first coal mine to operate in Nova Scotia since 2005. The Donkin Mine has an anticipated lifespan of 30 years

About Kameron Coal Management Ltd.

Kameron Coal Management Ltd. (“Kameron Coal”) operates the Donkin Mine project in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Kameron Coal and its affiliates have extensive coal mining experience through operations and investments around the world.

I think this represents a first in the history of Cape Breton coal mining: a company has finally figured out how to skip the part where it operates profitably and employs people for a few years and proceeded directly to financial difficulties, production problems and firings.

And it’s firings we’re talking about here, never mind the torrent of weasel words: “undergoing a transition,” “organizational restructure,” “changes to our workforce.”

They didn’t even have the guts in the announcement to state the number of firings — 49, or one-third of their employees.

As the miner I heard on the CBC this morning said, “They tell you the mine is going to be here for the next 40 years and then they fire you.”

 

Trouble spot

I, obviously, have no insight into what’s actually happening at the Donkin Mine but I was gratified to hear the CBC’s Mike Gorman quote unnamed fired miners who echoed my own immediate reaction to the announcement: shouldn’t a company with the coal mining experience of Kameron’s owner, the Cline Group, have anticipated “the complex geological nature of the Donkin Mine?”

Doesn’t what Kameron Coal Management is saying boil down to: “Having done our due diligence and chosen to invest in this mine in a coal field that has been worked since 1720, we were surprised by what we found underground.”

The Post story about what it’s calling the “lay-offs” actually contains the phrase, “[Cameron VP Shannon] Campbell said the Donkin Mine is under the ocean…”

I guess we should be grateful he did not then go on to explain that the “ocean” is a “large body of salt water” that is very “wet.” The story instead went on this way:

Campbell said the Donkin Mine is under the ocean and they only have 11 core holes in this deposit. They’d need hundreds or even thousands more to have a good coal plan.

“Unfortunately, where that’s under the ocean, that precludes us from doing that.”

When drilling creates a connection between the mine workings and the ocean, the mine operator has to leave a big pillar of coal around to ensure safety is maintained underground, he explained.

“Every hole we drill means essentially we cordon off about a million tones of coal. Those have gotten to be very expensive holes.”

Campbell said when these plans for the mine were made it was thought they would work.

“We took a risk, we took a big risk,” he said.

“But the data tells us, and our productivity and our cash flow tells us, that it doesn’t work.”

Campbell said one of the main issues is that the equipment they were using isn’t suitable for the conditions encountered.

“What it comes down to is that this equipment interacting with the conditions underground is severely holding our productivity back,” Campbell said.

“That’s our trouble spot right now.”

Kameron says the new plan and new equipment will require regulatory approval from the provincial government.

So, all their knowhow, all the information gleaned over 280 years of mining in this region, all the experience of local miners, all the data collected by DEVCO and Kameron Coal still managed to launch operations with “unsuitable” equipment? And we’re still supposed to trust them?

 

‘Our Mining History’

The Donkin mine is not unionized. As Campbell told the CBC:

We think that the individual has a better stance at representing themselves.

Given that he had just fired 49 of those “individuals” (with “Christmas coming,” as he told the Post) I’m not sure their “stance at representing themselves” was all that great.

A union would at least have been free to express the miners’ point of view on the firings without fear of corporate retaliation. In the absence of a union, the Donkin story is being told by mine owners and politicians like Glace Bay MLA and Minister of Business and Energy Geoff MacLellan, who told the CBC Nova Scotians should have no fear their government will cut any corners to get this coal mine it has supported and promoted from day one back into operation. Nor, he said, should we underestimate the concern the Cline Group has for us all:

They appreciate what we’ve been through with our mining history.

In fact, they appreciate it so much they initially sent in a man implicated in the deadliest mining explosion in recent US history to help establish the Donkin project — Chris Blanchard, the former president of Performance Coal Company, which ran the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. An explosion in that mine killed 29 miners in 2010. Blanchard himself was not charged, instead testifying against his boss, Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. As reported by Grist:

“..the overwhelming evidence was that Don Blankenship, his board of directors, and managers oversaw operations that regularly violated mine safety and health law and put miners lives at risk, [and] that, ultimately, the mine blew up and 29 miners were killed,” said Patrick McGinley, a law professor at West Virginia University who contributed to an independent investigation after the 2010 explosion and followed the trial closely. “There was just overwhelming evidence about how UBB mine was run with disregard for the rules and regulations and the basic components of keeping miners safe.”

And if the Cline Group and the government of Nova Scotia had been left to their own devices, Blanchard might still be working at Donkin. He was only removed after a Global TV investigation in 2016 revealed his history, which the NS government claimed to have known nothing about:

“I don’t know what his role is whatsoever at Donkin mine at this point,” said Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Geoff MacLellan, “I have to trust that the system we have in place and the mechanism for ensuring that safety.”

 

Connect the Dots

MacLellan professed his continued faith in this project which will see Cape Breton head firmly back to the future, looking to coal as a savior even as science has once and for all connected the dots between fossil fuels and climate change. Even as climate change has ceased to be something we’re predicting and become something we’re feeling. Perhaps MacLellan missed the exhaustive scientific study released by the US government in November. Let me pull a few quotes:

In the industrial era, human activities have been, and are increasingly, the dominant cause of climate warming.

Greenhouse gases are one of the key culprits. CO2 is a greenhouse gas (a “well-mixed greenhouse gas” to be precise) and:

CO2 emission sources have grown in the industrial era primarily from fossil fuel combustion (that is, coal, gas, and oil), cement manufacturing, and land-use change from activities such as deforestation.

In the industrial era, the CO2 atmospheric growth rate has been exponential…,with the increase in atmospheric CO2 approximately twice that absorbed by the oceans.

It’s strange, really, that people who live on an island would not be more concerned about the effects of climate change. Stranger still that Kameron Coal Management is so unconcerned, given where it’s headquartered:

Source: Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stock Companies

Yes, 3801 PGA Boulevard, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Google Maps tells me that’s a mere 3.5 miles from the Florida coast — and a mere 15 miles from President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club:

 

 

Palm Beach Gardens is located in Palm Beach County which believes the climate science — it has an “office of resilience” to tackle the issue and a climate change “czar.”

Palm Beach officials are on record warning Trump that rising seas could swamp the “Winter White House.” As the Florida SunSentinel reported in February:

…people like Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams, a Republican, say Trump should seriously consider the risks to his prized waterfront property, the Mar-a-Lago club and resort in Palm Beach, where he is spending this weekend.

Mar-a-Lago is situated in West Palm Beach which has a Sustainability Action Plan (SAP) to cope with climate change. It believes the climate science too:

With fossil fuel use and resulting GHG emissions being the primary drivers of global climate change, the City also recognizes the quality of life and economic benefits of becoming more sustainable which are also contributing factors to the development of this SAP.

It must make Kameron Coal Management President James Bunn II a little uncomfortable knowing his neighbors are discussing such issues. No wonder he likes Nova Scotia, where the government is too busy burning tires and cutting down forests and encouraging desperate Cape Bretoners to believe there’s a future in coal to worry about silly old climate change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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