An investigation into a Nova Scotia open-pit gold mine has uncovered seven incidents of illegal dumping that has led to fines totalling $250,000.
Atlantic Mining NS Inc. pleaded guilty earlier this month in the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia to one count of contravening the Fisheries Act for the dumping that occurred between 2018 and 2020.
While the specific content of the waste was not described in a federal statement about the fine, they were noted as “deleterious,” and in excess of levels previously authorized for the areas around the Moose River Gold Mines. The mine, however, has a waste rock storage area.
Atlantic Mining, which does business in Nova Scotia under the name Atlantic Gold, was purchased by St. Barbara Ltd. of Australia in July 2019.
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Evidence of a problem emerged when in June 2019, an environmental inspector with Nova Scotia Environment notified federal environment officials of “ongoing sedimentation and erosion issues” at the Touquoy mine site near Middle Musquodoboit, some 80 kilometres northeast of Halifax.
The company had originally been charged with more than 32 offences that were reduced through negotiations.
Environment and Climate Change Canada stated that following the dumping, the company failed to immediately collect samples from the area for acute lethality testing in relation to aquatic species. It also failed to report the results, as required by the Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations under the Fisheries Act. The company, however, pointed out to the court that there was no evidence of fish harmed by the offences.
The company has produced more than $750 million worth of gold at its Touquoy open pit mine in Moose River since 2017.
Moose River is described in an assessment report as “a low gradient stream characterized by small boulder, cobble, and large gravel substrate […].”
The court has also decided that the company must hire a qualified consultant to develop and deliver training to staff on the Fisheries Act, emergency response surface sampling and other environmental response responsibilities. The mining company must also implement a “train the trainer” program to provide training to contractors and employees on environmental topics, and “ensure adequate testing supplies are in all vehicles used on site to collect samples for acute lethality testing at the time of an incident.”