The underground coal mine in Donkin, N.S., is still operating under a limited licence from the province, but is inching toward approval for full production.
The mine was shut down for about a month last year after a series of rockfalls. It was allowed to reopen, but mining could only take place in a short section.
Harold Carroll, executive director of Nova Scotia Labour's occupational health and safety branch, said mine operator Kameron Coal's ground control and ventilation plans have been approved, and an electrical plan has been submitted and is under review.
"The electrical is the last piece of the puzzle, and so the ground-control procedure is in a very good place, and the ventilation plan has changed substantially over the years and so that's in a good place," he said.
Those are components of the master mining plan and are requirements under the law, Carroll said.
Meanwhile, the restriction that limited mining to a short section has been lifted.
The company had been required to seek extensions every time it wanted to mine further along the coal seam, but Carroll said regular inspections have shown the company's other plans are working.
"We're comfortable that they can continue to work without that limited distance, but at the same time there's still limitations on the work that they do because we haven't adopted all four components of the plan," Carroll said.
An outside consultant will likely review the electrical plan before the province approves it, he said, and once approved, the company's overall mining plan will be complete.
"Once the plan is approved, they don't have to continually come back to us every time they have to move a battery-charging station, for example, or move another key element of the electrical servicing," Carroll said.
"Right now, we have to sign off on those on an incremental basis, so that's why there's still some limitations."
In an email, vice-president Shannon Campbell said Kameron Coal is pleased with the progress.
New coal road to open this year
The company has built a new road to bypass the town of Glace Bay and to get coal from the mine to the Provincial Energy Ventures pier in Sydney Harbour for shipping to customers.
The province is still working on the intersection of the new coal road with the Sydney-Glace Bay Highway near the Old Airport Road.
The coal road is expected to open this year after traffic lights are installed.
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