Nova Scotia

Company plans to drill for gold at 2 historical N.S. mine sites

Vancouver-based Osprey Gold will conduct exploratory work near Sherbrooke and Upper Musquodoboit this summer.

Osprey Gold will conduct exploratory drilling near Sherbrooke and Upper Musquodoboit this summer

A driller conducts gold exploration work at Osprey's site in the Goldenville, N.S., area in 2017. (Osprey Gold)

A Vancouver-based gold exploration company plans to drill at two historical mining sites in Nova Scotia this summer.

Osprey Gold Development will drill in the Goldenville area near Sherbrooke, and in the Caribou Mines area near Upper Musquodoboit.

Company president Cooper Quinn said the existence of historical mining operations at the sites, as well as the success of the currently operating Touquoy Gold Mine, make him confident the results of the exploratory work will be positive.

"The best place to look for gold is where there's gold, and we know that's in Nova Scotia," said Quinn.

The Goldenville site is located about three kilometres south of Sherbrooke, and the other site is about 10 kilometres south of Upper Musquodoboit and 10 kilometres north of the existing Touquoy Gold Mine.

An old foundation remains at Osprey's exploration site in the historical Goldenville, N.S., mining area. (Osprey Gold)

Australian company St Barbara is currently negotiating with Touquoy mine owner Atlantic Gold to purchase that company.

While Osprey has drilled at both sites in the past, where gold is known to have existed, the new drilling program will be aimed at nearby sites that are less certain bets.

Both areas were mined sporadically, but at times heavily, from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s. Quinn said those operations "never fully realized their potential."

"Most of them closed down in and around 1942, generally. That wasn't because the gold resources were depleted and there was nothing left there. That was because in 1942, young men and women had other things on their mind other than mining gold," he said, alluding to the Second World War.

Remnants of an old mine operation still exist at Osprey's Caribou site near Upper Musquodoboit, N.S. (Osprey Gold)

Many historical mining sites were left contaminated by chemicals such as mercury, arsenic and cyanide, which were used to separate the gold from the ore.

"Back then, it was a pretty dirty thing and there wasn't a lot of care given to the environment," Quinn said.

But he said modern mining methods are safer for the environment.

"It's a very far cry from your grandfather's mining industry. It's on us as the mining and exploration industry to prove that we're better than we used to be."

This painting by Joseph Purcell depicts Goldenville in the early 1860s. The town's existence was based on the gold mining industry. (Nova Scotia Archives)

Quinn said during drilling operations, the company will try not to disturb any historical tailings — the material left over after gold is extracted from ore — that may be contaminated.

Still, residents, academics and government staff have raised concerns about the potential environmental impacts of both historical and proposed gold mines in the province.

The province has been experiencing a gold rush of sorts in recent years. In addition to the operational Touquoy mine, which opened last year, there are four other gold mines in various stages of the environmental approval process.

Gold is visible in this specimen collected during the company's field work at its Caribou site. (Osprey Gold)

Quinn said if the exploration work does eventually lead to the opening of a mine, gold production would still be at least five years away.

"Somewhere in the neighbourhood of one in every 1,000 exploration projects become a mine at some point in their lifetime," he said. "So, the odds are stacked against us."

It's not a certainty that Osprey would be the company that owns or operates a potential mine. So far, the company has focused on simply looking for gold, not producing it.

Quinn said it is estimated that the company's Goldenville claim contains about 447,000 ounces of gold, while the Caribou site is believed to contain 96,000 ounces.

About the Author

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

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.