Coal Exploration Proposals Reviewed
The province has completed its review of three applications for surface coal exploration and mining in the Sydney coalfield, and its review of three proposals to develop the Donkin subsea coal resource. “We are excited about the economic, environmental and social benefits that can come from these projects,” said Minister of Natural Resources Richard Hurlburt. “Where appropriate, we hope to extract the coal for sale at current market value, which would give Cape Breton a significant economic benefit, a source of employment, and provide more economical resources to users who now have to import it from as far away as South America.” A special lease for coal at the former Prince Mine site at Point Aconi was approved for Pioneer Coal Limited on April 14. The project has been registered for environmental assessment, and is under review by the Department of Environment and Labour. Approval was given on June 2 to issue Coastal Construction and Excavating Limited an exploration licence to explore an area near the Prince Mine Road, Cape Breton Regional Municipality, subject to landowner consent. The licence area is about 25 per cent of the resource block outlined in the original call for proposals. Thomas Brogan and Sons Construction Ltd. was unsuccessful in obtaining mineral rights for the Birch Grove resource block. A fourth application for a lease for surface coal resources in the Broughton coal block is under review. Recommendations of the review committee regarding proposals to develop the Donkin subsea coal resource are under final consideration and a decision is expected in early July. There are an estimated seven- to eight-million tonnes of coal in Cape Breton that could be mined by small surface operations. This could have a market value of between $300 million and $500 million, could generate up to 100 direct jobs and more than 200 indirect jobs. A special exploratory licence permits a company to determine the presence of coal, the quality of the coal and the economic viability of a potential project. It does not allow for development. Mineral leases issued by the Department of Natural Resources provide control of the resource to the successful applicant but provide no permission for operation of a mine. All applicants must successfully complete the environmental assessment and industrial approval process through the Department of Environment and Labour, and receive landowner approval before they can begin mine development. This ensures that any mining operation will protect water courses, water supply, wetlands, and wildlife habitats. The surface coal mining blocks within the Sydney coalfield are currently the subject of a cumulative environmental effects study by the Department of Environmental and Labour. Results are expected by the end of the summer. When extraction of coal is completed, the lease holder is required to restore the site to a condition that is environmentally acceptable and that addresses local interests. A good example of the community benefits from surface mining is in Stellarton, the site of the Pioneer Coal Limited mine, which employs 70 persons. Mining operations are expected to be completed by 2011, and the lease holder and the community have agreed that the site will be reclaimed in a way that will allow the community to meet its land-use planning objectives. The plans include converting the land — which had been severely compromised by historical mining — for use as parkland, sports facilities, and residential and industrial properties.