Welcome To
Acadia Broadcasting NewsThe Latest and Greatest ContentYour Trusted Local Source


Environmentalists worried NS Gold mine waste could breach tailings dam

Aug 16, 2022 | 12:13 PM

The Touquoy (pronounced TWO-qwah) mine site tailings pond. Photo: Ecology Action Centre

A mining company has been given the greenlight to increase the height of a tailings dam holding back toxic mining waste in Moose River, but advocates with the Ecology Action Center are concerned the changes increase the risk of a breach. 

“It’s really disappointing to be honest with you,” says Wetlands and Water Coordinator, Mimi O’Handley. 

Atlantic Gold, a subsidiary of St. Barbara, applied to expand its current tailings pond’s capacity via the dam height while awaiting approval of an environmental assessment which would allow for the open-pit Touquoy Gold Mine, 63km Northeast of Halifax and 19 km southeast of Middle Musquodoboit, to be used as a tailings pond.

“They had their original environmental assessment in 2008 and the tailings pond was not engineered to store more tailings that they’re asking for now, O’Handley says. “Two factors that go into tailings dam breaches are a heightened dam and an increased volume in the tailings. Both are going to be happening at the Touquoy mine site.”

Tailings waste is a by-product of mining, made up of oils and grease, and sometimes even toxic substances like arsenic and mercury.

Without the modifications, Atlantic Gold will run out of space for the mining waste and have to cease some operations at the site.

While the company does have an ongoing environmental assessment with requires more information to be approved by the Minister of Environment, Atlantic Gold did recieve what’s called and “industrial approval on Aug. 10, 2022 – a process that doesn’t require any public consultation, meant to keep operations running on site – to raise the height of the dam on the existing tailings storage. 

O’Handley says, the lack of transparency around the industrial approval of the dam raising is concerning. 

“We don’t have all of the information available to us. Usually if it had gone through an environmental assessment process we would be able to see all the proposed plans from the mining company.” 

A release from St. Barbara that day reads: “The Tailings Management Facility lift should provide sufficient time for the Company to work with the Provincial government to resolve NSECC’s (Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change) outstanding queries on the Environmental Assessment for in-pit tailings deposition.”

“Upon receipt of the in-pit tailings deposition permit, the Touquoy site will have sufficient tailings capacity to support the longer term Atlantic Province Plan, which is also proposed to include Beaver Dam and Fifteen Mile Stream.”

In an email statement to our newsroom about the approval of changes to the current tailings storage facility, a spokesperson for the Department of Environment wrote: “After a thorough review, the Administrator is satisfied that the proposed activities are in line with the applicable legislation, regulations, policies, and standards. Raising the height of the tailings facility provides the company with required capacity.”

“Government’s job is to ensure opportunities for sustainable development that benefit Nova Scotians economically and increase employment can move forward, while continuing to protect the environment.”

Because the changes were approved out of the public eye, O’Handley says she’s not sure if there’s anything that can be done to protest the dam raising or to quell gold mining in Nova Scotia. 

“We have more than enough gold in the world to sustain human needs… it can be recycled infinitely, so we really don’t need to be digging up more gold from the earth.”



Leave a Reply