Nova Scotia

Moose River mine project not worth its weight in gold, environmental group says

Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association is concerned about the potential for pollution, but company behind Nova Scotia mine project says it is safe.

Members of Eastern Shore Forest Watch concerned new gold mine could pollute their 'backyard'

Atlantic Gold Corp. will build four kilometres of new roads, which means trucks don't have to pass by any homes, a company spokeswoman says. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Members of an environmental group on Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore say they're concerned a new mine could pollute their "backyard" when it opens in Moose River Gold Mines next fall.

Atlantic Gold Corp. of Vancouver is planning four developments in the area northwest of Sheet Harbour. The company has already hired 140 employees and blasting has started on a 30-hectare open pit.

"We understand that jobs are important," said Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association member Barbara Markovits. "But we do question whether mining is the best and highest use of the land."

The area is known for the 1936 Moose River mining disaster, which trapped three men underground for 56 hours. Dramatic radio reports were broadcast live from the scene across North America.

Markovits said she doesn't want the community back on the map for similar negative reasons and is most concerned about the environmental impact of the newest project.

Toxic effluent

Markovits said she's concerned about toxic effluent contaminating three neighbouring wilderness areas that provide clean water, clean air and habitat for many species.

"This is our backyard," she said.

Janis Rod, a spokeswoman for Atlantic Gold, said the water used in the mining process "won't be toxic" by the time it gets to the tailings management facility and the polishing pond where treated water is held before it is discharged.

She said the design and construction of the facility was done in such a way to ensure safety. The rock-based dam goes down to the bedrock and uses clay to minimize seepage, Rod said.

Blasting has started to make way for an open-pit mine in Moose River Gold Mines. (Submitted by Atlantic Gold Corp.)

Recycled water

Rod said Atlantic Gold Corp. will be withdrawing about three per cent of the water from nearby Scraggy Lake "in a very managed way," and will recycle water.

Markovits said that amounts to "public water" used for "private profit," and would rather the company use accumulated rainwater. Nova Scotia experienced drought this summer, she said, so the issue of access to clean water "is foremost in our minds."

Markovits said she also worries about the transportation of cyanide to the facility and potential for a spill. However, Rod said the highly toxic chemical would be transported in solid form, not liquid form.

It would be brought in through a nearby port and then transported on roads "in convoys, in a very controlled way," Rod said, adhering to all federal standards.

In 2013, the Nova Scotia government expropriated a piece of property belonging to the Higgins family to make room for the new open-pit mine. (CBC)

New roads

The presence of a lot of "big mine trucks on country roads" transporting ore from one of the gold deposits in Beaver Dam to Moose River for processing is also a concern for some community members, Markovits said. 

Rod said her company had initially planned to only use existing roads. But following consultation with the community Atlantic Gold Corp. decided to build four kilometres of new roads, "which allows us to not go past any homes at all," she said.

The company is also looking at upgrading existing public and private roads in the area, Rod said.

Although Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association is "not calling people to the barricades," Markovits said, it has been holding public meetings to kept locals informed of the group's concerns. 

"The workers at the mine are not our enemies, they are our neighbours," Markovits said. She said she hopes "they remember to take their integrity and their ethics to work with them every day," and report potential problems at the work site.

With files from the CBC's Information Morning