Touquoy gold mine to cease production earlier than expected
Company blames environment minister's decision for hastened end to mining
The Touquoy gold mine in Moose River, N.S., is now expected to wrap up mining in early 2024 instead of at the end of that year.
The Australia-based owner, St Barbara, has finished mining gold from the open pit and is now processing stockpiles of ore, which are lower grade and less profitable.
The company expected to complete the stockpile processing by the end of 2024 and then place the mine in care and maintenance mode. That means monitoring and water treatment would continue, but other operations would cease.
But that schedule has been bumped up due to the company's difficulty getting approval for changes it wants to make at the site.
Atlantic Gold, a subsidiary of St Barbara that runs the Touquoy mine, is running out of room in its tailings management facility, the location where leftover materials are placed after they've been processed.
The company asked the province in 2021 for permission to place its tailings in the open pit once gold there was exhausted, but Environment Minister Tim Halman said at the time he didn't have enough information to make a decision, and requested that more studies be undertaken.
The company proceeded with those studies and submitted more information in 2022, but Halman once again responded with a request for more information.
After receiving even more information, Halman earlier this week sent a third request for more studies on the impacts of the in-pit tailings proposal, giving the company one year to submit the additional information.
In a statement on the company's website Thursday, St Barbara blamed that decision for its early move to care and maintenance.
The statement said compiling all the information Halman has asked for will take more time than is available before the existing tailings pond runs out of room.
In a statement Friday, a spokesperson for St Barbara said the company is disappointed in the province's decision, and while it plans to continue working to reach a resolution, "we must assess the impacts of this response on business continuity in the province."
Future plans for Touquoy
An environmental group has raised concerns about the mine being placed in care and maintenance, citing worries that it could remain that way indefinitely and delay reclamation of the mine site.
But St Barbara has other plans for the Touquoy open pit.
The company has proposed three other gold mines in Nova Scotia, and is now focusing on its Fifteen Mile Stream project, which would see four open pits developed in the Liscomb Game Sanctuary, about 95 kilometres northeast of Halifax.
St Barbara wants to use the Touquoy facilities for processing gold and its open pit for storing tailings from Fifteen Mile Stream. The company has until August 2025 to finish the environmental studies on the Fifteen Mile Stream proposal.