Nova Scotia

Feedback invited on proposed open-pit gold mine near Sherbrooke

If it gets the green light, the Cochrane Hill mine would operate for six years with construction beginning in 2021.

Cochrane Hill mine would operate for six years, with construction beginning in 2021

Concentrate from the proposed Cochrane Hill mine would be trucked to Atlantic Gold's Touquoy mine, seen above, for processing. (Atlantic Gold)

Canada's environmental assessment agency is seeking public comments on a proposed gold mine on the Eastern Shore.

Atlantic Gold wants to develop an open-pit gold mine near Melrose, N.S., about 13 kilometres north of Sherbrooke.

The operation would see two million tonnes of ore mined, crushed and concentrated at the site, then hauled for processing to the company's existing Touquoy mine located 142 kilometres away in the former village of Moose River Gold Mines.

The pit itself would be 170 metres deep, about a kilometre long and half a kilometre wide, and the project's total footprint would cover 240 hectares.

Atlantic Gold plans to start construction in May 2021, with production beginning the following year. The mine would operate until 2027.

Based on its testing, the company estimates it will extract 400,000 ounces of gold from the site.

Environmental impact

Public comments on the project will be accepted until Oct. 29, and will be used to help the agency determine whether a federal environmental assessment is needed.

According to Atlantic Gold's project summary, the Cochrane Hill mine is expected to impact fish and could result in the loss of wetlands and wildlife habitat, but those issues will be explored in greater depth once the project is officially under environmental review.

"The project's still in its early stages," said Jim Millard, the company's manager of environment and permitting. "Many details are still out there ready to be finalized. This is a first step of a long approval process."

Since the gold deposit is directly beneath Highway 7, the company plans to relocate a 2.9-kilometre section of the road approximately one kilometre to the west of where the open pit would be.

Economic impact

Millard said the project is expected to create up to 190 full-time jobs, with that number rising to about 300, including contractors, during the year of construction. 

"We're looking at improvement of the standard of living for those folks, because these are well-paid jobs relative to the Nova Scotian economy."

The project is expected to draw labour from Sherbrooke, the Eastern Shore, Antigonish and New Glasgow.

"The socioeconomic effects of the project can potentially be beneficial for the region, as it would provide employment and taxes locally and regionally," the project summary states. "It could potentially reduce and possibly reverse an outward migration trend of people moving to larger centres."

The Cochrane Hill project is one of four currently in operation or in development by Atlantic Gold along the Eastern Shore. The Touquoy mine began commercial production in March, while the proposed Beaver Dam and Fifteen Mile Stream projects are still under federal environmental review.

Another company, Anaconda Mining, plans to start a 125-hectare surface and underground mine just outside Goldboro. That project has not yet received environmental approval from the province.

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About the Author

Frances Willick is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. Please contact her with feedback, story ideas or tips at