Nova Scotia

Proposed gold mine in Guysborough County submitted for environmental approval

Toronto-based Anaconda Mining Inc. wants to build an open-pit and underground gold mine near Goldboro.

Open-pit and underground mine near Goldboro would operate for nine years beginning in 2020

An excavator fills a dump truck with crushed rock in the open-pit mine at Anaconda Mining's operation in the Baie Verte area of Newfoundland. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

Nova Scotia may become home to another new gold mine if a proposed Guysborough County project receives environmental approval.

Toronto-based Anaconda Mining Inc. plans to start a 125-hectare surface and underground mine just outside Goldboro, N.S., about 250 kilometres east of Halifax. The company filed its environmental assessment to the province on Wednesday.

Construction would begin in 2020 and production would wind up in 2029.

The operation would begin as an open-pit mine and then become an underground mine by its third year.

Anaconda plans to extract 575 tonnes of ore per day and process it through gravity and flotation before trucking the gold concentrate to the company's Point Rousse processing facility, near Baie Verte, N.L., via the North Sydney ferry.

A gold bar worth approximately $350,000. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

The project would have "no significant negative impact," notes the environmental assessment, adding that levels of cyanide released into the environment at the Newfoundland site will be "very low and reliably controlled."

"Anaconda has a solid reputation for environmental stewardship at our current operations in Newfoundland and we will extend the same commitment in Nova Scotia," the document notes.

No one from Anaconda responded to the CBC's request for an interview on Wednesday afternoon.

History of contamination

The area has been mined extensively in the past. From 1893 to 1910, 1,700 kilograms of gold were extracted. Historically, mercury was used to extract gold from ore, and the tailings — the material that's left afterward — used to be dumped in streams and wetlands. Some water samples in the area continue to show elevated levels of arsenic, mercury and iron.

Anaconda says it does not plan to disturb any of the historic tailings areas, and that pre-existing pollution is not the legal responsibility of the company.

Waste rock — the rock that is removed from a site but not crushed for gold — will be stockpiled near the mine, and any runoff will be diverted to a sediment pond before it reaches nearby Gold Brook Lake.

Tailings at Goldboro would be deposited in ponds, where solids would settle to the bottom, and the water would be recycled for milling. The company says it would explore water treatment options if effluent water didn't meet provincial regulations.

Molten gold is poured in a steel mould at Anaconda's Newfoundland mine. The result is a nearly pure gold bar. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

The company says one potential impact on the environment would be the loss of wetlands, including a relatively recent beaver pond that will be drained to create the open pit.

Once the mine stops operating, the open pit will be turned into a lake and the waste rock piles will be covered with topsoil and vegetation.

"When Anaconda is finished working in Goldboro, the area will be in better environmental condition than it is right now," the document notes. "That is our commitment."

Gold boom

The company expects the project to bring "significant economic stimulus" to the area, including up to 200 jobs.

The proposal is one of several gold mines that are either in operation or in development in the province. Atlantic Gold Corporation began commercial production at its Touquoy mine in the former village of Moose River Gold Mines in March. Environmental assessments are underway for two other Atlantic Gold proposals in the area, and test drilling is being conducted at a fourth site.

Public comments on the Goldboro project's environmental assessment will be accepted until Aug. 31. The environment minister will have until Sept. 20 to decide whether to approve the project.