|This article is part of the CoalSwarm coverage of Canada.|
Pioneer Coal is part of the Nova Construction group of companies with head offices in Antigonish, Nova Scotia - a maritime province of Canada. Pioneer Coal and related companies operate two surface coal mines (Stellarton Mine and Coalburn Mine) and have had mining operations at five other sites since the 1980s. After calls for public proposals, the Province of Nova Scotia, in May 2004, accepted Pioneer Coal’s bid for two surface mining projects in the Sydney, Cape Breton coalfields. In 2006, Pioneer Coal began a controversial coal mine reclamation project in Nova Scotia.
Reclamation of Prince Mine
In 2001, the company Devco closed the last of its mines - the Prince Mine at Point Aconi - in part because the high sulphur coal could not be burned in the new Point Aconi generating plant built next door. In 2003, the mineral rights to the coal on Devco properties across the region were transferred to the province. The province then issued a call for proposals from mining companies for the "exploration, development and reclamation" of 4 million tons of the Sydney coalfield that may be extracted by strip mining, including 29,000 acres of Boularderie Island, Point Aconi, the Bras d'Or Lakes, New Waterford, Gardiner Mines, Dominion, Donkin, Birch Grove, Port Morien and Broughton, according to the government's maps - over 14 sites in total.
Pioneer Coal's proposal to strip-mine 1.6 million tons of coal over a 7 year period (until 2013) near the old Prince Mine in Point Aconi was approved in 2006, including extracting the coal to sell to Nova Scotia Power with a royalty paid to the province for each ton of coal removed. The cleanup of the former Devco property covers 115 hectares. The project was approved despite reported opposition from 76% of residents polled in a municipal survey and the region's elected representatives and candidates from all levels of government and political parties and First Nations. Opponents raised concerns that strip mining in a wetland requires draining millions of gallons of water from the surrounding area, with many of the sites close to water reservoirs and sensitive wetland areas.
In 2006, Pioneer Coal began the surface coal mine reclamation project in Nova Scotia. Opposition continued: some residents are contemplating leaving because of ongoing controlled blasts from the mine site, saying the blasts feel like an earthquake. The group Citizens Against Strip Mining say Pioneer Coal is destroying wetland under the pretext of "cleaning up" Devco's old Prince Mine, while the government approved "Community Liaison Committee" has done little to address community concerns. In response, under the Nova Scotia Environment Act, Citizens Against Strip Mining have launched an appeal of the Minister's approval of the project to the NS Supreme Court.
The province imposed a three-year moratorium on surface mine reclamations after approving Pioneer Coal's project at the former Prince Mine, and extended the ban on new surface mines in 2009 for another three years - what happens at the old Prince Mine may determine the future of other potential "reclamation" projects.
Westville, NS B2G 2L7, Canada
- "Pioneer Coal" Canadian Mining Companies and Supplier Directory, accessed May 2011.
- "Residents frustrated with mine activity prepared to walk away" The Cape Breton Post, April 11, 2011.
- "Home" Citizens Against Strip Mining, accessed May 2011.
Related SourceWatch articles
"Coal phase out," Wikipedia
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