Operations at N.S. gold mine could be suspended if province doesn't approve change

·2 min read
St. Barbara has asked the province for permission to raise the height of the tailings management facility at the Touquoy mine in Moose River, N.S., to allow it to store more material there. (Steve Lawrence/CBC - image credit)
St. Barbara has asked the province for permission to raise the height of the tailings management facility at the Touquoy mine in Moose River, N.S., to allow it to store more material there. (Steve Lawrence/CBC - image credit)

The company that owns Nova Scotia's only gold mine says the operation will have to be suspended if the province doesn't approve an application to make changes at the site.

St. Barbara, based in Australia, owns the Touquoy gold mine in Moose River, N.S., and has three other proposed gold mines in various stages of environmental review.

The company's subsidiary, Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia Inc., has asked the province to allow it to store tailings — the leftover material after gold is extracted — in the open pit at Touquoy once mining is completed.

In May, Environment Minister Timothy Halman decided the company did not provide enough information about the potential environmental effects of that proposal to make a decision. He gave the company one year to submit additional plans and studies.

In a news release issued Wednesday, St. Barbara said that decision, which it said came "late in the process," is "placing business continuity at risk."

Tailings facility will run out of room this fall

The mine's current tailings management facility only has enough room to last until mid-September. Even if the request to store tailings in the open pit were approved, construction on the necessary infrastructure would not be able to be completed in time, the company said.

So it has submitted another proposal to the province that would see the existing wall of the tailings management facility raised to allow more material to be deposited there.

The company says it is working closely with provincial regulators and is expecting a decision on the proposal in early August.

If approved, the change would extend the life of the Touquoy operation to the end of fiscal year 2023.

If it is not approved in early August, "this would lead to the operation being suspended and placed in care and maintenance," according to the company.

The mine employs over 350 people.

Application now before province

In a statement, Environment Department spokesperson Elizabeth MacDonald confirmed the company has submitted an application that requires an amendment to its current industrial approval, and staff are working with the company to guide them through the process.

She said the province does not have a decision date.

"Nova Scotians can be assured, however, that we are always committed to making decisions on applications as quickly as possible."

MacDonald said the province's role as environmental regulator is to "ensure sustainable development that benefits Nova Scotians economically and by providing employment, while protecting our environment."

In the meantime, St Barbara continues to work on completing the necessary plans and studies the province has requested.

The company also hopes to develop three other mines, Beaver Dam, Fifteen Mile Stream and Cochrane Hill. Its plans include storing some tailings from those mines at Touquoy.

The CBC has contacted St Barbara for comment. This story will be updated with their response when they are received.

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