Province aims to begin Montague Gold Mines remediation this fall

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The Montague gold mine as seen in 1911. (Nova Scotia Archives - image credit)
The Montague gold mine as seen in 1911. (Nova Scotia Archives - image credit)

The province's environmental cleanup agency hopes to be ready to begin remediating a contaminated former gold mine in Dartmouth, N.S., this fall.

Donnie Burke, the executive director of Nova Scotia Lands, told the legislature's public accounts committee on Wednesday that staff have done water monitoring and assessed human health risks and ecological impacts at Montague Gold Mines, and an engineer is now working on a detailed remediation design and revised cost estimate.

The next step will be to file an environmental assessment with Nova Scotia Environment.

"If it's just a ... slam dunk and we meet all their criteria, and we can actually start remediation, we could be ready as early as this fall," Burke said.

The Montague Gold Mines site was mined extensively from the 1860s to the early 1940s, during a time when there were no environmental regulations in place. Contaminants such as mercury were simply dumped into waterways, and naturally occurring arsenic was released from rocks as part of the gold mining process.

The province previously announced it estimates the cost of cleaning up Montague Gold Mines and the Goldenville mine site, near Sherbrooke on the Eastern Shore, will be about $48 million.

But there are more than 60 other former gold mine sites on Crown land that are also on the province's list to be cleaned up.

An auditor general's report in 2019 noted that since the cleanup of those sites is the province's responsibility, there is a significant unknown financial liability associated with the work.

Work has begun on the dozens of sites to determine where the contaminated mining material is and what contaminants are present. Starting early next week, Nova Scotia Lands staff plan to visit each site and then compile a list prioritized by risk to human and ecological health.

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