Nova Scotia

Eastern Shore community rallies against proposed gold mine

Protesters in Sherbrooke, N.S., held a rally to oppose a proposed open-pit gold mine on Thursday, raising concerns about the project's potential impact on the watershed, at-risk species and the tourism industry.

Atlantic Gold wants to develop an open-pit gold mine in Sherbrooke, N.S., that would operate for six years

Residents and community groups protested Atlantic Gold's proposed open-pit gold mine, which would operate near Melrose, N.S., 13 kilometres north of Sherbrooke. (Submitted by Raymond Plourde )

Protesters in Sherbrooke, N.S., held a rally Thursday to oppose a proposed open-pit gold mine, raising concerns about the project's potential impact on the watershed, at-risk species and the tourism industry.

About 50 people marched in opposition to Atlantic Gold's plans for the mine near Melrose, N.S., about 13 kilometres north of Sherbrooke.

The Cochrane Hill mine would operate for six years, with a projected two million tonnes of ore mined, crushed and concentrated at the site.

The ore would be trucked 142 kilometres along Highway 7 to the company's existing Touquoy mine in the former village of Moose River Gold Mines.

Scott Beaver, president of St. Mary's River Association, said the mine would impact the river they've been working to protect for 40 years.

"A project of this massive enormity...in the middle pristine water conditions, where we've been doing habitat work for years and years and years, and to boot can totally damage our current tourism operations, which is the only thing this community has and will be the only thing that's left when Atlantic Gold is gone," said Beaver.

Several parcels of land on or near the St. Mary's River have been protected by the Nova Scotia Nature Trust. (Len Wagg)

The St. Mary's River is the only river in Nova Scotia that is operating a recovery strategy for Atlantic salmon, said Beaver.

The group has recently spent $1 million restoring the river, which is an important habitat for at-risk species like Atlantic salmon and wood turtles.

The mine's tailings pond would be next to Cameron Lakes, and Beaver said that poses too great a risk to the watershed.

"With climate change, and our hundred-year storms now five-year storms, this is threatening to us. This is over pristine water that runs into and is part of the St. Mary's River," he said. 

"The municipality has no say, our people here have no say, so you can see our dilemma."

Protesters said the mine could impact the local tourism industry and watershed connected to St. Mary's River. (Submitted by Raymond Plourde)

The Ecology Action Centre's wilderness coordinator Raymond Plourde said the placement of the mine next to the river is "irresponsible."

"There will be no doubt pollution from the mine which will inevitably end up in the river, which they want a site right next to it," said Plourde.

"It's a terrible place to have an open-pit gold mine. There's probably no great places, but this is a terrible place."

Pending the completion of a federal environmental assessment, Atlantic Gold plans to start construction in May 2021, with production beginning the following year. The mine would operate until 2027.

The Cochrane Hill project is expected to create 190 full-time jobs, but that number would climb to 300 during construction.