“We cannot imagine two places less suitable for mining projects such as gold mining”

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The Killag River, which is part of the West River watershed, is a short walk from the Beaver Dam mine proposed by St Barbara / Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia. Photo: Simon Ryder-Burbidge

The Nova Scotia Salmon Association (NSSA) has fired its final round against plans by Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia, a subsidiary of Australia’s St Barbara Ltd, to open a second large surface gold mine in Nova Scotia , this one at Beaver Dam about 30 kilometers from its existing Touquoy mine at Moose River, in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia (AMNS) appears to be the new name for Atlantic Gold, which opened the Moose River mine in 2017, and which St Barbara acquired in 2019 for $ 722 million.

In a 26-page statement to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC), the Nova Scotia Salmon Association (NSSA) detailed its main concerns regarding Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia’s most recent environmental impact statement. to the IAAC for its Beaver Dam Gold Mine Project at the West River Sheet Harbor Watershed.

On November 26, the Halifax Examiner reported on the mining company’s latest submissions to the IAAC and Millbrook First Nation opposition to the Beaver Dam mine site.

Now the NSSA has added its voice to this strong opposition to the Beaver Dam mine.

The NSSA’s submission states that the gold mine project “poses a threat to a world-class watershed restoration project on which we have been working with many partners for over 20 years.” He adds that:

… The NSSA is engaged in a multi-year initiative to develop long-term strategic stewardship plans for the West River, St. Mary’s River and six other watersheds along the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia. This work is funded by the Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk, which recognizes that the West and St. Mary’s rivers are two of the most ecologically important watersheds for the recovery of Atlantic salmon in the Eastern Canada. We cannot imagine two places less suitable for mining projects such as gold mining.

In addition to its proposed mine at Beaver Dam and a nearby mine at Fifteen Mile Stream, Atlantic Mining NS has also planned a mine at Cochrane Hill, on the banks of the St. Mary’s River.

As the Halifax Examiner reported in March 2021, the Nova Scotia Salmon Association, which represents more than 25 river associations and their members in the province, has worked for almost two decades with 20 partners – including First Nations, governments provincial and federal, academia, and local groups and charities – to restore the salmon ecosystem and habitat in the West River watershed, home to the Beaver Dam.

This map from the Nova Scotia Salmon Association's presentation to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada shows that the proposed Beaver Dam gold mine sits right in the heart of the watershed that the NSSA is restoring. .

NSSA map showing the Beaver Dam mine project and the reclamation project area

The NSSA West River Acid Rain Mitigation Project works to undo the ravages of acid rain on fish populations by applying lime to adjacent rivers and watersheds. The project has been very successful in helping the recovery of the Southern Upland Atlantic Salmon through its riverine habitat restoration works that reduce threats such as increased water temperature and barriers to fish migration.

This sign for the West River Acid Rain Mitigation Project shows the Killag River as part of the West River watershed that is being limed as part of the Nova Scotia Salmon Association's project to restore l river habitat and wild salmon populations.  Photo: Joan Baxter

The NSSA lime meter on the Killag River, a tributary of the West River, is just 80 meters downstream from the proposed open pit gold mine.

Photo shows the tall conical structure that is the lime meter on the edge of the Killag River just downstream from the proposed Beaver Dam gold mine.  Photo: Joan Baxter

Killag River lime proportioner. Photo: Joan Baxter

The NSSA statement notes that the number of juvenile salmon in the limed section of the West River system has tripled due to aquatic restoration work.

“This is arguably one of the most important Atlantic salmon conservation initiatives in Canada,” the release said. It continues:

The Beaver Dam Mine, if continued to develop, would be located at the heart of one of the largest, most innovative and successful aquatic ecosystem restoration initiatives in Canada. Industrial development of this watershed would jeopardize more than two decades of hard work, massive investment and a pronounced, but still fragile, recovery of Atlantic salmon – a COSEWIC [Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada] assessed species at risk.

And:

Given the efforts and success to date, this open-pit gold mine project that risks altering watersheds would be a major blow to the morale and momentum of the volunteer groups working to reclaim our renewable resources. and the ecosystems on which they depend. The minimum generic preventive measures described in the revised EIA [Environmental Impact Statement] do not reflect the seriousness of the potential for negative impacts on this long-standing and critically important project.

Six major concerns

This is not the first time that the NSSA has submitted comments to the federal assessment agency regarding the Beaver Dam mining project. In 2017, when Atlantic Gold submitted to the IAAC its original plans for the mine – the second of four the company wanted to operate along the East Coast – the NS Salmon Association responded with four major concerns.

This time around, the NSSA detailed six major concerns, stating:

… We argue that the company has not made real progress in reducing the potential for significant negative impacts on the region. The revised EIA continues to raise concerns that we believe have not been resolved.

The NSSA summarizes its concerns as follows:

  • The West River is too precious to accept any level of risk.
  • The revised EIA does not sufficiently take into account the watershed downstream of the mine footprint.
  • The proposed quarry is simply too close to the Killag River (Cameron Flowage).
  • The spatial extent of the proposed work is too large and encroaches on adjacent sub-watersheds.
  • The benefits to Nova Scotia are minor compared to the value of the restoration project and the conservation progress already made.
  • The NSSA is generally not convinced that Atlantic Gold will prioritize environmental protection and the West River restoration project.

The battle of the commentators

The public has until Dec. 17 to submit comments to the IAAC regarding the proposed Beaver Dam gold mine.

As of December 14, there were more than 100 comments on the website from people opposed to the mine – some of them strongly opposed to its approval – and 31 in favor of it.

Of those who have expressed support for the mine, 21 are clearly people who work for the mining company or are closely affiliated with it, many beginning with the common phrase “As a member of the mining team. St Barbara’s Atlantic Operations ”, then this content from the boiler plate:

I know there have been many studies, environmental mitigation measures, environmental effects assessments and more submitted to the government in support of the Beaver Dam mine project. I have a high level of confidence in the quality of these studies, and know that they were carried out to the highest standards. I am confident that through the information already submitted for this project, working with scientists and subject matter experts, engaging with rights holders, as well as consulting our company with the communities around Beaver Dam that this project can be done safely, while protecting our shared environment, and is something all Nova Scotians can be proud of.

That an open pit gold mine is “something all Nova Scotians can be proud of” is not a view shared by NSSA Executive Director Brent Locke.

The deep crater of the Touquoy open pit gold mine at Moose River in the HRM.  Photo: Simon Ryder-Burbidge

Touquoy open-cast gold mine. Photo: Simon Ryder-Burbidge

In an interview, Locke told the Examiner that the West River watershed where the NSSA has invested so much in restoring fish habitat, such as the St Mary’s River watershed where the company wants to open another open pit gold mine, and like the French River watershed which provides Tatamagouche with its water supply and where the province had a plan to promote gold exploration, are all “far too fragile” for them. gold mines.

Locke said the NSSA is against any gold mine expansion in the province:

We don’t want to see mine crawl. This is not just a problem for Beaver Dam, Cochrane Hill and the French River watershed on Mount Warwick. This has repercussions across the province. It is important that this mine [at Beaver Dam] not pass, because if you open this door through a crack, it will be a little easier for other operations and mining sites to appear. And that’s one of the things that really scares us.

In October, the Examiner reported that the Crown Attorney responsible for Atlantic Mining NS’s environmental prosecutions on 32 environmental charges and three federal charges, a case that has already been adjourned eight times this year, had reached an interim agreement to advocacy with society. The deal would have seen Atlantic Mining NS fined the government $ 5,000 and donated $ 120,000 to the NSSA.

The NS Salmon Association doesn’t want it.

As NSSA executive member Mike Bardsley told the reviewer at the time: “The value of threatened watersheds, the port of West River Sheet, and in particular the St. Mary’s River, exceeds by. away any kind of donation or six-figure penalty. “

When asked if the Nova Scotia Salmon Association had been approached a second time to accept a donation from Atlantic Mining NS as part of a plea deal, Locke laughed. “No,” he said. “If they had, it would have been a total waste of their time.”

According to Locke, “The Nova Scotia Salmon Association is against gold mining. Period.”


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