Environmentalists alarmed about bid to lift tailings dam at Nova Scotia gold mine

HALIFAX – Environmentalists are expressing dismay over a pending provincial authorities choice that would permit a Nova Scotia gold mine to lift the peak of the wall of its current tailings waste pond.

Australian-based firm St Barbara, which owns the Touquoy gold mine in Moose River, N.S., has stated it must droop the open pit mine’s operations if its utility isn’t authorised by the provincial Atmosphere Division by early August.

Karen McKendry, wilderness outreach co-ordinator for the Halifax-based Ecology Motion Centre, stated the corporate’s request to alter its industrial allow is separate from the conventional environmental evaluation course of. There is no such thing as a required public session course of if the corporate needs to lift the wall, she added.

“We’re elevating the alarm bells about that,” McKendry stated in a latest interview. “Elevating a tailings dam places it extra vulnerable to breaking … and this choice goes to be made behind closed doorways and also you’ve actually bought to query it.”

Earlier than they decide, provincial officers ought to no less than request their very own unbiased engineering research and conduct pc modelling on the results of a dam breach, McKendry stated.

Atmosphere Minister Tim Halman in Could gave St Barbara’s Canadian subsidiary, Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia Inc., one 12 months to submit extra info on the environmental results of a separate utility to retailer Touquoy’s tailings in an open pit as soon as mining operations are accomplished.

In a June 22 information launch, St Barbara stated Halman’s choice got here “late within the course of” because the mine nears its finish of life. The corporate stated it had submitted an utility to lift the present tailings wall as an “interim answer” that may lengthen operations till the tip of the 2023 fiscal 12 months.

Ought to the carry allow not be authorised in early August 2022, “there will probably be inadequate time to permit for the development of the elevate earlier than the present tailings capability is exhausted in mid-September 2022,” the corporate stated. “This might result in the operation being suspended and positioned in care and upkeep.”

In an emailed assertion Thursday, St Barbara stated it’s “persevering with to have interaction” with the Atmosphere Division and added that no timeline for a call on its utility has been set, “although a call is anticipated in August 2022.”

“St Barbara stays dedicated to being a sustainable gold producer and employer within the province of Nova Scotia,” the corporate stated. “A part of St Barbara’s company commitments is to security at all times, and respecting the setting. Our firm will proceed to work with all events to make sure we live as much as these commitments within the communities the place we function, now and into the long run.”

The corporate has stated it additionally needs to develop three different proposed gold mines situated close by which can be presently in numerous phases of the regulatory course of.

Additionally in an e-mail Thursday, the Atmosphere Division stated it’s nonetheless reviewing the corporate’s request to lift the wall.

“All functions acquired by the division are totally reviewed by division workers to make sure proposed actions are in compliance with the relevant laws, laws, insurance policies and requirements,” the division stated.

It added that the proposed peak improve has been designed by the corporate’s engineer of file who’s “professionally accountable for guaranteeing the dam design is sustainable and meets the necessities of the Canadian Dam Security Tips.”

A dam breach and inundation research was submitted as a part of the corporate’s utility, the division added. “We’ve got 60 days to decide from the date we obtain a accomplished utility, which was June 29.”

Patricia Egli, of the Jap Shore Forest Watch Affiliation, stated her group wrote a letter final month to Halman and Pure Sources Minister Tory Rushton urging that an sufficient period of time be taken to decide that isn’t “unduly influenced.”

“That is what we’re frightened about,” she stated. “It’s a behind-the-scenes course of the place you don’t know what’s happening.”

McKendry added that the scenario boils right down to belief, in mild of the truth that Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia Inc. was fined $250,000 after pleading responsible in February to violating federal and provincial legal guidelines, after an investigation discovered it had deposited damaging substances into water close to the gold mine.

“We thought it was necessary this time to be proactive,” McKendry stated.

The dimensions of a number of soccer fields, the Moose River mine opened within the fall of 2017 and is situated about 90 minutes outdoors Halifax.

This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed Aug. 5, 2022.

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