MOOSE RIVER GOLD MINES, N.S.—Amid the dull claystone of a tube-shaped sample of rock, the gleaming, pulse-quickening swirl of gold is unmistakable.
“It’s quite a special specimen of gold, it’s by far the best visible section of gold we’ve ever intersected,” said Tim Bourque, a geologist with Atlantic Gold Corp, cradling the metre-long sample in his arms.
The rock was gathered last fall at the firm’s Fifteen Mile Lake property, one of four deposits it owns in Nova Scotia’s old gold districts.
The discovery of the precious metal in such unremarkable hunks of stone is helping to revive a dormant industry—and Bourque hopes it will keep the company’s Moose River Consolidated Project flourishing after its initial Touquoy mine starts up here in September.
The company says Touquoy will stamp out 87,000 ounces of gold in its first year—each ounce currently worth over US$1200 each—an indication of the potential riches that have drawn Atlantic Gold and other miners to the interior of the province’s Eastern Shore region.
The number of provincial exploration
Another mining company, Newfoundland-based Anaconda, has purchased a gold mine in
Geologists are now seeking tiny flecks of the precious
The new Moose River mines are open pits the size of multiple football fields, using daily explosions to extract
The concept relies on massive volumes of ore, a standardization of crushing methods that keep costs down, close proximity to ports and cities—Halifax is less than 90 minutes away—and a relatively strong gold price.
John Wightman, executive director of the Nova Scotia Prospectors Association, says the old-timers who ran the underground mines in places like Moose River, Caribou or
“We’re looking at deposits for the most part that
At the Touquoy site, pits have been blasted deep into the ground.
During a tour, chief operations officer Maryse Belanger says about 25,000
Some will go to build the dam being erected in the distance, other portions go into construction on the site and about a quarter will be put through a processing plant being built on higher ground.
“Open pit mining here in Nova Scotia is part of redefining what the (Canadian) industry can do,” she said, as she stands in front of
She says after her firm assembled a series of properties in 2014 in the
Those funds pay for a processing plant built by Australia’s Ausenco firm, where massive quantities of ore will be pulverized. The flecks of gold that gravity and crushing can’t extract
The gold will be stored in a windowless, three-storey building where furnaces create the bullion bars before they’re stored in a thick cement vault currently under construction.
As Belanger gives the tour, heavy trucks lumber around the property, building holding areas for a pond where water from the project is stored before being returned to the environment.
This discarded water is among the environmental concerns raised by some residents of the region.
Retiree Barbara Markovits says nitrogen in the effluent—in part from the explosives—may lead to
“We remain concerned about the ongoing water quality of the effluent when that mine starts,” said Markovits, a member of the Eastern Shore Forest Watch, who suspects open-pit gold mining may prove to be a temporary industry that’s highly dependent on keeping costs low.
The company responded in an email that nitrogen levels can be controlled through proper selection of explosives that won’t produce the residues and are highly insoluble in water.
Markovits said her group also wants effluent-quality test results to be placed online within “days or hours.”
As well, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is demanding further information on the impacts of the second open pit, the Beaver Dam project, which would have trucks carrying ore over rural highways to Touquoy.
Belanger says the company’s response to the issues will be posted “in the coming weeks,” and that its proposed hauling route “does not pass by any existing homes.”
But amidst environmental concerns, there are also Nova Scotia mining professionals grateful for the chance to return home
The Touquoy site alone is expected to result in 200 new jobs in the area.
For geologists and hard-rock miners who grew up in the province, the gold industry means a return home and a chance to prove open pit mining will have a net benefit.
Douglas Keating, the son of an Eastern Shore fisherman, spent decades
“I’ve been in this industry for 35 years and it’s nice to come back home … I’d like to bring a lot more people back here as well,” the chief assayer said during a tour of his lab.
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