The federal government is filling in an old coal mine in the Table Head community of Glace Bay, N.S., in an effort to keep beachgoers and locals safe.
The concern is collapse due to soil subsidence.
The cliff overhanging Table Head beach may give way. There are empty mine cavities about 7-10 metres below the surface that were once the Dominion No. 7 Colliery.
Mining took place at the site until it was permanently closed in 1918. Public Services and Procurement Canada, which owns the land, is set to fill the holes with sand, gravel and cement beginning in late September.
Blayne Melnick has lived in the last house on Hay Street for the past 45 years. His property is on the edge of the cliff overlooking the beach.
There are voids below the surface of his yard. He saw crews surveying the land last fall.
He said he was surprised to see the workers, but he's aware similar work was done in the past in New Waterford.
In 2019, Public Services and Procurement Canada launched a geotechnical drilling program throughout CBRM. It checked rock thickness and stability in shallow mine workings and identified subsidence risks.
Two former mines in New Waterford – No. 12 and No. 16 – have already been filled.
Last fall, the land in Table Head at the shoreline in the Hill Street area was surveyed. Workers found "significant shallow voids that can pose potential human health risk if not addressed," according to a project fact sheet.
"Really, the cliff is what drew our attention to it," said Joseph MacPhee, a PSPC regional manager in Cape Breton. "There's some unstable areas when you look up from the beach."
MacPhee said two past drilling projects found abandoned mine sites that extended further than first thought. "It's not very well mapped," he said.
The plan is to stabilize an area covering about 3,500 square metres along the coast in Table Head.
"We're just working to prevent any hazards to the local community that uses the site," MacPhee said.
"It's a fairly popular area for beach walkers and people that like to look for beach glass. So we want to make sure that what's here is safe for them to use."
MacPhee said the plan is to preserve beach access as much as possible.
Amanda Slaunwhite picks beach glass on Table Head beach about once or twice a week.
She didn't know there was an old coal mine there, but she said the infilling should make it safer for beachgoers like her. But she doesn't want to see it closed for long.
"People go there for their sanity and stuff like that. It's going to suck if that closes," she said.
There will be limited access during work periods if there is a risk to safety, PSPC said in a statement.
A public information session will take place Tuesday night at the Glace Bay Seniors and Pensioners Club.
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