Citizens Against Strip Mining
Home Documents News Petition Comments Links Contact Us

Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour

Environmental Monitoring and Compliance Division

PO Box 714

295 Charlotte Street        

Sydney, NS BlL 6H7      

2007-06-29

 

Some of the issues identified fall outside the true parameters of a Section 115 investigation however information is provided herein where possible to address your complaint. For case of reading each separate alleged violation will be reported on.

 

Sec. 32 (2) EA

Although not specific in the interview, the cumulative responses contained herein should address this issue.

 

Sec. 50 (1) EA (Land Ownership issue)

On 2006-06-06 the following Parcels of land were conveyed to Pioneer Coal Ltd. from the Cape Breton Development Corporation.

 

PID # 15698368,   15703473,    15698350,    15698392,    15553068, 15568603, 15827694, 15515257, 15781743, 15514615, 15549330, 15703465. Documents relating to Pioneer Coal Ltd. ownership of the above listed lands are held on file.

Order in Council # 2007-143, dated 2007-03-12 conveyed 61.24 ha to Pioneer Coal Ltd. Copy of this Order held on file. The associated PID for this property is 15301435.

 

To date properties PID 15301476 and PID 15301450 remain under the ownership of Nova Scotia Power Inc., Halifax, Nova Scotia. It is reported that NSPI had granted permission for Pioneer Coal to access NSPI property to gain access to a monitoring well.

 

Sec 55 (1) EA

Pioneer Coal on or about 2006-10-18 commenced construction of a haul road. This is reflected in Field Inspection Reports. The construction of this haul road is not considered a change in activity by NSDEL but in fact considered to be part of the preparatory work necessary for the proponent to achieve compliance relating to other Terms & Conditions of its Approval. It was determined later via inspection & complaint during road construction that Pioneer Coal had infringed on a previously unidentified wetland. Investigation of this incident was conducted as per the NSEL Compliance Model. As a result a compensation plan at a 5:1 ratio has resulted and changes have been made to planned stockpiling areas avoiding this wetland. This area will be monitored by NSEL.

 

Section 69 (1) and 71 EA (Wetlands, Brook, Orange Precipitate)

A review of photographs by NSEL staff provided by NSDNR revealed the following information:

1931 & 1953 (B&W Photos): Land disturbance is evident along the coal crop line. General area is rural farm & forest.

1969 (Color Photo) The disturbance along the coal crop line is much more pronounced Morrison Pond exhibits a reddish color. The seaward side the beach at Morrison Pond shows a reddish color along with a light brown sediment plume within the surf. Coal Hollow Brook shows a deep vivid red to orange typical of AMD.

1983 (Color Photo) Devco's Prince Mine is active. Morrison pond is showing minimal evidence from Mine drainage. Coal Hollow Brook is showing an orange color indicative of mine drainage.

1993 (Color Photo) Morrison Pond is showing minimal evidence of effects from mine drainage. Coal Hollow Brook is showing an orange color indicative of mine drainage. These photos, depicting a span of sixty years is conclusive that both bootleg & commercial mining have been very active and has had effects to the surface water in the area. In the 1990's Devco established a water treatment plant to remediate the impacted water. Impacted water was redirected to a water treatment facility via pipes & ditches. This treatment plant was designed to eliminate untreated water from entering surface water streams and the ocean.

 

The orange precipitate evident in the upper areas of MacDonald Brook is the result of discharge from the under-drain network below the settlement /surge pond structure. Possible sources are: 1. result from drainage from the waste rock pile, 2. possible waste rock impacts from historic bootleg workings in the area and 3. seepage/leakage from the settlement/surge pond. Possible conclusions from the preceding are: 1. the flow emanating from the waste rock area may not be captured by the interceptor ditch and is captured by the nearby under-drain below the settlement/surge pond or there is drainage impacts from the waste rock pile that existed prior to the construction of the settlement/surge pond structure, 2. there may be waste rock from historic bootleg workings in the immediate area and 3. the ashphalt liner in the settlement/surge pond may be breached and discharging to the under-drain. Chloride concentrations (@ 500 mg/1) in MacDonald brook are greater than groundwater influenced at the waste rock pile area ( @ 200 mg/1). The only other source of chloride in the area is from the settlement/surge pond which received water (chloride @10,000 mg/1) from the underground at Prince Mine until 2002. Testing in 2003/2004 showed chloride concentrations @ 500 mg/1 in water leaving the settlement/surge pond under-drain. It is possible that a possible leak or breach in the liner are influencing the under drain water chemistry and hence the orange precipitate.

 

A review of Field Inspection Reports indicated the Settling Pond to be "almost full ....... Pioneer Coal plans to pump the first pond before it overflows into the second pond & pump it into the mine workings." This process was deemed acceptable to NSEL. Water samples were collected upstream at MacDonald Brook and one at the weeping tile pipe from the settling ponds. Ph levels at the weeping tile were 7.54 and at MacDonald Brook 7.69. Water sample for Ph at the #2 Settling pond was 5.5. It was concluded there is no scientific basis of adverse effect however additional testing is/was scheduled with Environment Canada.

 

On 2006-11-10 water running towards MacDonald's Brook was observed to be clear. Proper sedimentation controls were requested and obtained for the take off ditch area. The perimeter ditch near the settling ponds was observed to have an increased flow and as a result the Ph was tested. Another acceptable reading was obtained. The culvert by the lagoon was to remain blocked until the disturbed area is stabilized as per the Approval. Additional sedimentation controls were requested by NSEL for the area of the ditch running between the settling ponds and the lagoon. Pioneer Coal complied.

 

Having received word that Pioneer Coal may be planning removal of a `bulk sample' for testing purposes NSEL advised Pioneer Coal that removal of a bulk sample from the site will require an Approval prior to such removal.

 

Water samples taken in conjunction with Environment Canada from the exit pipe of the settling ponds and at Coal Hollow Brook were obtained. Samples were analyzed at Environment Canada's labs. The results did not reveal any scientific evidence of adverse effect. This sampling program will be continuing. A great deal of preparatory work had to be completed prior to the commencement of any mining activity as defined by NSDNR. It is NSEL's analysis once Pioneer Coal is ready to mine coal or extract a `bulk sample', it is then that Pioneer Coal must be in compliance will the Terms and Conditions of the Approval. It is possible for Pioneer Coal to request amendments to the approval. NSEL has been willing to work with the proponent and sister Departments / Agencies to adopt a common sense and logical approach to determining the Approval benchmarks and triggers. Accepted construction industry/mining industry standards have been the benchmark to date in determining the level of compliance.

 

You did enquire how "high wall mining" qualities as Surface Mining. Enquiries and research describe surface mining as the "removal of overburden" to gain access to the desired mineral. In this case the overburden will be removed and the material recovered. The high wall miner, an unmanned machine, is utilized to gain access to the coal seam. A more technical description of a high wall miner is available from the Department of Natural Resources however enquiries with DNR revealed DNR accepts the mining plan/methods of Pioneer Coal and approves `high wall mining' as an acceptable industry practice and in fact may reduce the amount of overburden that must be removed.

 

You enquired about the Canada Nova Scotia Agreement on Mineral Development. Enquiries revealed this document was sometimes referred to by some as "the Novaco Report". It has since expired but when in existence was the framework for a funding agreement between the federal and provincial governments to facilitate mineral research within Nova Scotia. A copy of this expired document is not readily available.

 

From enquiries with the Department of Natural Resources it was determined that Pioneer Coal indicated an interest in the present size mining lease. Prior to that the Province of Nova Scotia had set aside a larger area than the present lease. Pioneer Coal applied for and was granted the lease they presently have and in turn the Department of Natural Resources reduced the lease to what it is. To date we have been unable to locate a map indicating this however one may be available via DNR.

 

On 2007-02-08 and 2007-02-12 materials relating to the Sulphide Bearing Material Disposal Regulations was provided to you electronically.

 

Acid Rock Drainage (ARD) Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) was of concern to the you. This has been referred to as "Orange Precipitate".     You have provided photographic evidence of an `Orange Precipitate" like substance since your original Section 115 Request for Investigation. Enquiries with the Inspector assigned the file reveal Pioneer Coal has and plans to pump this precipitate to the underground workings of the former Prince Mine. There are photographs of this `Orange Precipitate' in watercourses on site and there are the ones referred to earlier in samples taken in conjunction with Environment Canada.

 

To date, there has not been any scientific evidence that the `orange precipitate' is ARD or AMD. Ongoing monitoring and testing for ARD and/or AMD is continuing on a regular basis. All results to date are within acceptable limits. Excepting the wetland matter, investigated separately, Pioneer Coal, has not violated the Terms and Conditions of its Approval. In preparing to mine coal as authorized in its Approval, Pioneer Coal has been compliant.

 

Matters relating to the Environment Assessment and Industrial Approval process have not been commented on as they do not fall within the mandate of a Section 115 investigation. Having articulated that it should be pointed out that your Request for Investigation pursuant to Section 115 EA has provided NSEL an insight to some of the communities concerns but has also identified the opportunity to re-visit certain practices, procedures and policies, explore better ways of doing business and should be viewed as a positive exercise that will further identify issues and practices that must be addressed by NSEL in keeping with its mandate and responsibilities.

 

M.P. Farrell

District Manager

 

Home Documents News Petition Comments Links Contact Us