1. Donkin collapse
“Work at the Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton has been suspended after a roof collapse late last week,” reports the CBC:
There was no mining operation underway when the collapse occurred Dec. 28 and no injuries were reported, said Shannon Kerr, a spokesperson for the provincial Labour Department.
Donkin mine vice-president Shannon Campbell told CBC News in a statement the mine had “experienced certain adverse geological conditions beyond our control” during the scheduled Christmas shutdown.
Er, isn’t that known as a “bump“? Sez Wiki:
In room and pillar mining, tunnels are advanced in a rectangular pattern resembling city streets (tunnels), leaving behind blocks (pillars) of coal. To a miner, a partially completed tunnel resembles a room dug into the coal seam. As mining proceeds, the weight of rock overburden previously supported by coal mined from rooms is redistributed to pillars. If that weight exceeds the strength of a pillar, the pillar can fail by crushing or exploding. An explosive failure is called a “bump.”
In the eastern United States’ coalfields, bumps are more likely when the overburden is at least 500 feet (150 m); where a strong, overlying stratum, such as sandstone, occurs near the coalbed; and with a strong, inflexible floor. In the United States, the number of deaths from bumps had dropped off dramatically since the early 1990s, but fatalities are more common in the West where mines often run deeper. Bumps are three times more likely in room-and-pillar mines, and are even more common in mines that do retreat mining, in which the pillars are removed as the miners retreat towards the mine entrance with the intent of allowing an orderly collapse of the mine.
In October, Nova Scotia Energy and Mines senior geologist John Calder explained the geology behind the 1958 Springhill Mine Bump to the Amherst News:
Coal mining techniques were constantly changing at the time, and while it was the scene of two major mine disasters, Springhill’s mines were considered cutting edge when it came to using new methods of extracting coal from the ground.
For generations, Calder said, mining was done in a room and pillar style with “rooms” where coal was removed using pick and shovel and “pillars” of coal left to hold up the roof rock.
“The thing is, when you’re removing that coal seam, you have all that weight and pressure of the rocks above you all the way to the surface bearing down on the workspace, but you’re also putting pressure right on the face of the coal you’re working on,” Calder said.
“It acts like a lever, almost like a nutcracker, with the coal face being the nut and the handles are the roof and the floor of the open space.”
Unfortunately, the nature of the area’s geology was the reason for the bump. Calder paints a very different picture of Springhill 300 million years ago: a tropical wetland located near the equator.
“Off to the north, there were meandering river systems that wound their way down through the Cumberland Basin, heading northeast toward an unknown sea,” he said. “Those rivers would eventually find their way, moving laterally and over the peatlands, which became coal. Those river systems left behind sandstone bodies about 20 metres thick and about a kilometre in width.”
These massive sandstone deposits sat on top of the coal and normally did not give way easily. The pressure would build up, and instead of dissipating gradually as mining operations continued, it would hold fast until it released in a violent rock burst.
The bump all came down to digging coal at great depths and leaving large empty spaces deep underground. Bumps, he added, would not happen in shallower mines.
“I’ve never been underground where there was a violent rock burst because, by the time I come around in the 1970s, access to the mines in Springhill were all shallow,” he said. “You had to be at a depth, or vertical cover, of about 2,000 feet in order to get enough pressure building up to cause this problem.”
So what do we have at Donkin?
“A large coal basin of Carboniferous age, the coalfield extends towards north and northeast from the northern part of Cape Breton Island under the Atlantic Ocean towards Newfoundland,” explains Mining Technology:
The landward portion of the coalfield comprises less than 5% of the total coal measure sequence.
The mine is classified as a low-type A structural complexity. The resource block extends over an area of approximately 100,000ha.
The Donkin area hosts up to 11 coal seams, of which three seams, namely Lloyd Cove; Hub; and Harbour, have the potential for underground mining.
Room-and-pillar (board-and-pillar) mining method with partial pillar extraction using four continuous miners is applied to extract coal from Donkin.
The main development area of the Harbour seam is located along the strike of the seam and runs from east and west of the access tunnels. The secondary or production panels will be driven downwards to a depth of 600m.
Six hundred meters is slightly more than the 2,000 feet John Calder, the mining geologist, said is necessary for a bump.
The CBC reminds us that “former workers said last March the mine is a disaster in waiting, with employees subjected to dangerous conditions, including ceiling cave-ins.”:
Inspection records from February 2017 to February 2018 showed the mine had struggled to solve problems with falling rocks and coal. In one area where rocks had fallen, an inspector noted the roof had “little to no self-supporting ability.”
Of course, Donkin management insists that “safe production was its No. 1 priority.”
Yet, the Donkin operation is operated by Kameron Coal, which is a subsidiary of The Cline Group, controlled by American billionaire Chris Cline.
Cline is the predictable piece of work: a climate change denier and an all-around horrible person.
“The Wisconsin Resource Council cites Devon Cupery, a producer of the Al Jazeera documentary, Wisconsin’s Mining Standoff, who says Cline’s coal mines in West Virginia and Illinois have been cited for over 8,000 federal safety violations since 2004,” reports Of the 8,000, over 2,300 were ‘significant and substantial’ violations with the potential for injury, illness and death.”
Soon after mining was restarted at Donkin, Global News reported that “a top official, helping to open the new Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton, has resigned from the project after questions were raised by media regarding his involvement in a 2010 U.S. mining disaster that killed 29 miners.”:
After months of investigating management behind the Donkin Project, 16×9 learned that former Performance Coal Company President Chris Blanchard was part of a team working to help set up the Donkin project.
Blanchard was the president of the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia leading up to one of deadliest mining explosion in recent U.S. history.
Blanchard’s former boss, the CEO of Massey Energy Don Blankenship, was sentenced April 6, 2016 to one year in federal prison for conspiring to willfully violate mine health and safety standards at the Upper Big Branch mine.
Blanchard cut a deal with West Virginia prosecutors and was given immunity to testify against his former boss.
In its decision, the court cited Blanchard’s testimony describing a culture of pushing production over safety at Upper Big Branch and an “understanding” that “it was more profitable to violate safety standards and pay the resulting fines than to reduce production.”
During his testimony, Blanchard denied breaking the law, but admitted his company was cited for hundreds of violations, most of which were preventable.
Donkin is a disaster waiting to happen.
— Graeme Benjamin (@GlobalGraeme) January 2, 2019
But of course I will write about it…
I grew up in a mythical land where people could walk down the street without their feet slipping out from under them — like, it never happened; the ground was solid and my feet held firm, and never did I worry that the two could lose meaningful contact. But then I moved to a place where people purposefully seek out places where feet and ground don’t hold firm, where they build arenas where the lack of holding firm is celebrated by two groups of people slipping and sliding around and beating each other up while doing so.
So I guess I wasn’t conditioned for yesterday’s sidewalk conditions. There I was, penguin-walking at a snail’s pace (pardon the mixed animal metaphor) over a treacherous stretch of the Robie Street sidewalk, and people who grew up in this strange land were just zooming around me as if this were perfectly normal. The hell with it, I said to myself, and took the bus.
In December 2013, I slipped and fell on a pedestrian island at the corner of Gottingen and North Streets and broke my wrist. And then came the winter of hell, January through March of 2015, when the entire city was one ice sheet. I still have mental scars from it.
That winter, I vowed to at least clear the ice from the sidewalk in front of my house, so I went out with my pick axe and sliced through the six inches of ice to hit bare cement. It was one of the few stretches of sidewalk in the entire city not covered with ice — with the notable exception of the sidewalks at Dalhousie University; I compiled a photo essay comparing the horrendous sidewalks the city maintains to the sidewalks Dal maintains. Here are two examples from that essay:
I was at Dal yesterday, and the sidewalks were again perfectly clear.
So how is it that Dalhousie can keep its sidewalks free of ice and the city can’t?
This came up in a Twitter exchange I had with councillor Waye Mason:
They pay I have hear almost triple what HRM pays.
— Waye Mason (@WayeMason) January 2, 2019
Well, then we have a baseline for what it costs to do the job correctly by contracting out. We either pay the money to do the job right, or we "save" and endanger pedestrians and piss everyone off. Or, we don't contract out and tell residents to take care of it.
— Tim Bousquet (@Tim_Bousquet) January 2, 2019
This is all Linda Mosher’s fault.
Sure, that’s a bit unfair — when it was the law to do so, lots of residents failed to clear the sidewalks in front of their houses. But after then-councillor Mosher successfully shepherded through a new policy having the city take over clearing the sidewalks, almost no resident did so, and the city failed at the job. The situation got worse, not better.
The suburban-urban conflict on council is often overstated, but here’s one clear example of it. Mosher lives on a lightly trod street on top of a hill in Armdale. There are maybe three or four dog walkers that pass by all day, but that’s about it; everyone else drives to work, pretty much. It really is a pain in the ass to go shovel for three assholes who won’t even pick up their dog’s shit. It makes sense to pay for the city to do it.
On the peninsula and in downtown Dartmouth, however, there are a hundred thousand people using the sidewalks to commute. The sidewalk is more important than the road for commuters. Last I checked, something like 60 per cent of people in the south end either walk or take the bus (which involves at least some walking) for their commute.
One way to look at this is that the sidewalks are so important that the city should be responsible for clearing them. In a perfect world, yes. But we don’t live in that perfect world. I mean, clearly. The experiment has failed, repeatedly.
We should go back to requiring residents to clear the sidewalks in front of their houses, and — especially — to make business owners responsible for clearing the walks in the business districts. (I’ve never understood why any retail shop would let the ice build up outside their business; that just scares customers away. But there it is.) Increase enforcement to make sure that’s done, increase fines, and budget a large amount to pay people to clear for the elderly and disabled, and importantly, to clear intersections.
Intersections are the worst. All the competing plows deposit their dregs at the intersections, turning the most heavily travelled part of the pedestrian commute into the most badly maintained. It takes people with shovels to get out and clear them.
No public meetings this week.
No public events this week.
In the harbour
05:00: Grande Halifax, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Baltimore
06:00: RHL Agilitas, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
08:00: AlgoNorth, oil tanker, sails from anchorage for sea
11:30: Grande Halifax sails for sea
12:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
Another light news day. Maybe some scandal will happen today.
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