Pioneer Coal requires assessment on blasting proposal

Published on December 4, 2014
The Minister of Environment has determined that an environmental assessment is required if Pioneer Coal wants to conduct blasting at the strip mine in Stellarton. According to the department, as of Dec. 2, Pioneer Coal has yet to register for the assessment. ADAM MACINNIS – THE NEWS

STELLARTON – The Minister of Environment has determined that blasting at the Stellarton surface coal mine requires an environmental assessment.

Randy Delorey expressed the decision in a letter to Jamie MacGillivray and the Citizens Coalition on Blasting Proposal dated Nov. 28.

“(The environmental assessment) was the most that we expected and hoped for,” said MacGillivray. “The formal process involves more detailed and independent analysis.”

According to the department, as of Dec. 2, Pioneer Coal has yet to register for an environment assessment.

MacGillivray is pleased the process will soon be underway so public consultation and meetings can be formalized.

“The minister could have changed the existing approval without an assessment but Pioneer Coal must now take the steps necessary for one,” he said. “It’s a much more involved process.”

According to the department, Class 1 undertakings are usually smaller in scale and may or may not cause significant environmental impacts or be of sufficient concern to the public. Therefore, a public review of a proponent's initial submission or registration is required and the minister will decide if a more detailed review and/or public hearing is required.

These types of developments include, but are not limited to, mines, certain highways and waste/dangerous goods handling facilities.

Pioneer Coal requires blasting at the site to access a seam of coal 11 feet thick that sits under an area of rock approximately 30 feet thick. 

For now, MacGillivray is content to wait and see until the process gets underway.

“If there’s any way the public and committee can assist in the process, we’d like to. I think it’s highly unusually to have a strip mine in the middle of a residential community and to blast at the mine.”

At a Chignecto Central Regional School Board meeting on Dec. 3, concerns were raised over the potential effects of coal dust for school children in the area – in particular, G. R. Saunders Elementary School, which is less than a kilometre from the mine.

Ron Marks, Stellarton and Westville’s representative to the school board, noted that he relayed concerns first raised by the School Advisory Committee.

“What’s happened is that Pioneer Coal now wants to blast,” said Marks. “The SAC has added their voice to other concerns in the community.”

Marks expressed concern that one of the coal dust monitors should be placed directly at the school to keep accurate measurements.

“We don’t have all the test results for the dust monitors. It would be interesting to get those numbers.”

According to Marks, the school board has chosen not to do any more at the moment and the SAC is looking to get additional info.

“We want to understand it now and get answer from the environment and health ministers,” said Marks. “What protection do we have if something goes awry?”

Dr. Ian Spooner, a professor at Acadia University, stated in October that dust on properties close to the open strip mine in Stellarton he analyzed is by all indications coal dust.

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