We’re standing on the snow-covered banks of the Killag River beside the lime doser, a white silo that has been calibrated with intricate controls to apply just the right amount of lime into the river every day.

Edmund Halfyard, a biologist working with the Nova Scotia Salmon Association, tells me that the “right amount” — between one and 15 tonnes per day — depends on the flow of the river.

Edmund Halfyard inside Killag River lime doser. Photo: Joan Baxter

The lime doser is one of two — the only ones operating in North America — that the Nova Scotia Salmon Association and its partners have set up on the West River Sheet Harbour watershed to de-acidify the water and undo the damage caused by acid rain in the 1970s and 80s, which decimated the population of wild Atlantic salmon and other fish in rivers along Nova Scotia’s South and Eastern Shores.

Although it’s a frigid winter day, the Killag River is not frozen. Just in front of the doser the water gurgles over rocks forming miniature rapids, on its way from a stillwater known as the Cameron Flowage just upstream, before eventually flowing into the West River that makes its way into the Atlantic Ocean at Sheet Harbour after a series of gentle step-like waterfalls.

Google map showing location of lime doser in Marinette known also as Beaver Dam area

The lime doser is in a place called Marinette, known locally as Beaver Dam. There has been rampant clearcutting in the area. Much of the land around here, including that on which the doser stands, belongs to Northern Pulp’s sister company Northern Timber, and quite a lot of the landscape is either denuded or covered by scrubby softwoods.

Killag River lime doser. Photo: Joan Baxter

Nevertheless, it is still a quiet and lovely piece of the universe, a few kilometres off Highway 224, and about 25 kilometres inland from Sheet Harbour.

Halfyard and his colleague Jillian Leonard, a conservation biologist with the Nova Scotia Salmon Association (NSSA), are unabashedly enthusiastic about and proud of their work to restore the river system to health. In addition to the liming, they are working with academic and other partners on a remarkable range of research projects, including one looking at the behaviour and survival rates of salmon that develop in acidified rivers when they first venture into the ocean.

The NSSA is also working with the Mi’kmaw Conservation Group to create artificial reefs in Sheet Harbour to benefit salmon and trout, and they hope to expand that partnership to do more reconfiguration work in the West River to provide deep and cool pools for salmon and other aquatic species.

Jillian Leonard and Edmund Halfyard at Killag doser site. Photo: Joan Baxter

They want to restore the natural meandering path of the rivers, which historically were straightened by bulldozers for better log passage, or blocked by dams, and also, Halfyard says, affected by land use around them. Clearcutting, for example, speeds up runoff into rivers when there is heavy rain, making riverbeds wider and shallower, and thus too warm for fish.

Halfyard says that salmon “really struggle when water is warmer than about 20 or 23 degrees, although juveniles can do quite well at 25 or 26 degrees. Above 27 degrees they usually become moribund. They’ll die at 30 for sure.”

Fish need to find areas in the rivers where the water is cold, usually in deep pools, and Halfyard says the Killag River is special that way, consistently cool in summers with a spot, as locals know, where adult salmon come to find refuge from warm water.

“Historically, a large portion of the adult salmon would have spent the summer in that,” Halfyard says. “That’s the reason the Killag lime doser is here, because it is good temperature habitat and also good physical habitat in the stream.”

The only problem with the Killag was its acidified water. “But now with this machine, we’re able to deal with that,” says Halfyard. “And so we’re starting to address all of these threats sequentially and we’re seeing the results. The salmon are doing well.”

Undoing the ravages of acid rain

West River project signboard on Killag River. Photo: Joan Baxter

For decades, Nova Scotia was on the receiving end of acid rain that mostly originated elsewhere.

Dalhousie University biology professor Jeff Hutchings tells me that “most of it came from the US, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and there was certainly some that came from Canadian sources like Sudbury.”

Halfyard says that since the US amended the Clean Air Act in 1990, acid-causing pollution has gone down 90%.

According to the Nova Scotia Salmon Association, the province “suffered more than any other region of North America” when it came to fish habitat lost to acid rain. And no part of Nova Scotia suffered more than the southern coastal plain — known as the Southern Uplands — that stretches from Yarmouth to Canso. Salmon populations in 50 of the 65 rivers draining the plain were harmed by the acid rain. The NSSA says the combined effects of acid rain and low marine survival are “hastening the extirpation [extinction] of all but a small number of the Southern Upland salmon stocks.”

Halfyard says that anglers were already noticing the harm acid rain was causing to fish stock in the 1980s. Frustrated by lack of tangible action to rectify it, he says, non-profits decided to do something themselves.

In the early 2000s, they brought in Atle Hindar from Norway, where experts had been using lime to de-acidify their rivers for years. Based on Hindar’s report, which recommended liming four rivers in Nova Scotia, they set up the lime doser on the West River in 2005. It was a first for North America.

The project was expected to last about 10 years and cost about a million dollars, Halfyard says, with funding at that point solely from non-profits raising money through “charity dinners and auctions and golf tournaments and bake sales.”

Eventually the NSSA’s Acid Rain Mitigation Committee — with representatives from the NSSA, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Trout Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Power, and both federal and provincial governments — developed the West River Acid Rain Mitigation Project.

Halfyard says the project brings together people from “government, academia, First Nations, not-for-profits, and corporations such as Nova Scotia Power.”

Halfyard tells me that the conservation work contributes to the economy, providing employment for local people who work as technicians, and for Nova Scotian companies that supply equipment. They buy the lime from Mosher Limestone just a few kilometres down the road in Upper Musquodoboit.

Although the first lime dosers came from Norway, they are now manufacturing a new one from scratch locally, and Halfyard says an industry is building around conservation work.

Killag RIver with lime flowing into it. Photo: Joan Baxter

Halfyard and Leonard direct my attention to the lime that can be seen flowing into the Killag, forming a pale cloud as the current pulls it along, and tell me about a four-year project to restore soils around the West River system.

In 2018, they expanded the liming from the rivers themselves, to the river catchments. With federal and provincial government funds, and helicopters provided by the NS Department of Lands and Forestry, they have been spraying lime over landscapes to reduce soil acidity and restore soil health.

“Our soils are built in such a way that they were depleted in the 1980s and so they are slow to recover,” Halfyard explains. “They are thin soils, composed of things that have been generated from granite rock, and granite does not break down quickly. So the soils just don’t rebuild themselves as they should.”

“A little terrified” by the prospect of a gold mine

Jillian Leonard, who manages the helicopter liming work that is done in the fall, says the choppers carry a special bucket that is weighed at take-off, so that they can measure the amount of lime being dropped on the catchment areas, usually about 10 tonnes per hectare.

“We’ve limed about 180 hectares between the Keef Brook and Tent Brook,” she says, both of which also flow into the West River from the Beaver Dam area.

Leonard says, “It’s a little ballet dance that happens in the air,” when the helicopter pilots direct the lime over precise areas. “It’s wild to see how they do it.”

Catchment liming around West River Sheet Harbour. Photo: Kris Hunter

Halfyard says that 16 years of lime dosing have restored the West River Sheet Harbour River system to its pre-acidification levels. “Between the two dosers and the helicopters, we have really good evidence of the recovery. We’re not out of the woods and we have a lot of work to do, but our evidence suggests we’re effective at what we’re doing.”

Halfyard tells me that since the liming began, the number of salmon smolts — young salmon that head out to sea after spending the first two or three years of their lives in the freshwater river system — leaving the West River and swimming off to destinations as far away as waters around Newfoundland and even Greenland, has tripled.

He says that to date, counting the value of volunteer hours and funding from private sources and governments, the liming project has cost about $5 million.

And just when it looks as if the project has succeeded in undoing some of the ravages of one environmental disaster caused by human activities involving sulphur emissions, producing acid rain that harmed the rivers and the aquatic life they support, the rivers face a new threat from another kind of human industrial activity.

Leonard tells me that just upstream from where we are standing beside the lime doser is where Atlantic Gold plans to put its Beaver Dam open pit gold mine.

Jillian Leonard of NSSA. Photo: Joan Baxter

“It makes me a little terrified, really,” says Leonard. “This project is doing such great things.”

Major disruptions at Beaver Dam

Atlantic Gold — now owned by the Australian company St Barbara Ltd. that acquired it for $722 million in 2019 — opened the very first open pit gold mine in Nova Scotia in 2017 in Moose River, about 30 kilometres from Beaver Dam. That Touquoy mine is just the first of four that the company wants to operate along Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore — with three others planned for Beaver Dam, Fifteen Mile Stream, and Cochrane Hill on the St. Mary’s River near Sherbrooke.

Atlantic Gold calls this the Moose River Consolidated Project, and all three additional mines are under review by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC). (In the past three years, the Halifax Examiner has reported extensively on Atlantic Gold and gold mining in Nova Scotia, and many of those articles are listed in this Endnote.) [1]

The three new mines are crucial for the company’s continued mining operations and gold production in Nova Scotia. According to a May 2019 technical report for the Moose River Consolidated Project, production at the mines is sequential. [2] As production peters out at Touquoy, it should have already begun at Beaver Dam, followed by Fifteen Mile Stream and then Cochrane Hill. Crushed ore from those mines is to be trucked to Moose River for cyanide processing, in some cases over many kilometres of public roads.

Atlantic Gold “Life of Mine” schedule from 2015
Atlantic Gold “Life of Mine” schedule from 2015

In two recent earnings calls on which the Examiner reported here and here, St Barbara CEO Craig Jetson has had to respond to pointed questions from investment analysts about delays on mine opening plans, given earlier forecasts for the mine production schedule. The schedule outlined in the 2019 technical report would have seen Fifteen Mile Stream start up in 2021, and Cochrane Hill in 2022.

Obviously, neither of these dates is going to pan out, and Atlantic Gold recently announced that Cochrane Hill had been pushed back until 2026.

In the February earnings call, Jetson said they would be submitting their revised EIS for Beaver Dam this quarter, although as of this writing it has not yet appeared on the IAAC site.

Based on earlier submissions, it is clear that the gold mine planned for Beaver Dam will not exactly be a minor disruption to the landscape and the environment, not while it’s operating and not for many, many years to come.

Anything but, in fact.

According to the 2019 submission to the IAAC by Atlantic Mining NS, the subsidiary of Atlantic Gold that will operate the Beaver Dam mine, the open pit will cover about 30 hectares (ha), be about 900 metres long, 300–450 metres wide, and 170 metres deep.

That means the mine crater will be just a 300 metres shorter than Lake Banook in Dartmouth, and more than 14 times as deep. Or, put another way, the mine pit will be twice as deep as Halifax’s tallest building, Fenwick Towers, is high.

Every day for the three years and seven months that Atlantic Gold plans to operate at Beaver Dam, it will blast an average of 35,480 tonnes of rock from the ground, of which 5,480 tonnes will be ore-bearing (contain gold) and 30,000 tonnes will be waste rock. For perspective, every 3.3 days the miners will extract rock that weighs as much as the CN Tower.

In total, the company plans to extract 47.3 million tonnes of rock from the ground, more than the weight of 400 CN towers.

The Atlantic Mining NS Environment Impact Statement states that, “Non-ore bearing waste rock will be stockpiled at its final disposal point and managed and reclaimed in place.”

Trucks hauling rock at Touquoy gold mine in Moose River. Photo: Joan Baxter

“Waste material” will definitely be piled high at the Beaver Dam site. The quantities that Atlantic Gold plans to stockpile at the mine site are staggering:

Waste material storage at the mine site will include six topsoil, two till, and two non-ore bearing waste rock stockpiles comprising a combined total of 98 ha … The six topsoil stockpiles will have capacities ranging from 0.04 Mt [400,000 tonnes] to 0.20 Mt [200,000 tonnes] of material with final average grade elevations of between 145 masl [metres above sea level] and 170 masl respectively. The two till stockpiles will have capacities of 2.3 Mt [2.3 million tonnes] and 1.7 Mt [1.7 million tonnes] …

The two waste rock stockpiles will have a capacities of 20.7 Mt [20.7 million tonnes] and 14.8 Mt [14.8 million tonnes] of material and final peak grade elevations of 210 masl and 190 masl respectively.

All of this a stone’s throw from the lime doser and the Killag River, where salmon populations are just starting to rebound.

A contentious haul road

As the Examiner reported in December 2020, when it broke the story that Atlantic Gold has been charged with 32 environmental offences at and around its Moose River mine, the haul road over which the company plans to transport crushed ore from Beaver Dam more than 30 kilometres to its Touquoy mine for processing raises many questions for those who live in the area, and for anyone concerned about the health of wetlands and waterways along the way.

Map of Beaver Dam mine area and haul road to Touquoy mine (from Map Book Pt 1 submission to 2019 IAAC)

Asked what risks such a haul road might pose to fish and fish habitat, Halfyard offers a cautious and diplomatic reply:

The NS Salmon Association currently has a large funding project through the Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk. And there we’ve identified eight priority watersheds in the province and we are doing a huge survey using cutting-edge technology to describe their current state and to begin to plan for future restoration work, how conservation can benefit in particular, species at risk — Atlantic salmon, American eel, brook floater mussel, and Atlantic Whitefish. As part of that, one of the major concerns we have is aquatic connectivity. So can fish get to where they need to go? … And we know that the single biggest predictor of whether fish are going to be impeded is the number of times that watershed or a water course crosses the road. So wherever a road meets water courses, it tends to unfortunately mean that for fish, their journey has ended. Culverts and bridges can be put in properly, but it’s cheaper to do them improperly.

He says that when the province does roads and culverts, they tend to do it well.

But will the mining company do the same? Halfyard reminds me about the record of the Touquoy mine, where sediment from runoff led to environmental charges, saying, “I don’t think they’ve done a good job of it so far.”

Apart from the haul road, Halfyard also has concerns about the risks to waterways from the deep crater that Atlantic Gold proposes at Beaver Dam.

We have a lot of concerns around water quality, but more importantly, water quantity. The site currently plans its open pit for 50 meters away from the edge of the Killag River in an area known as Cameron Flowage. It’s where they’re drawing the water. But a 28-hectare open pit located 50 meters from such a sensitive area — a pit 170 meters deep — [could cause a] catastrophic loss of water during their blasting, for example. If fracturing were to happen, water would fill that pit, effectively draining the river for quite an extensive period of time. And although they can say that they would take precautions against something like that, it’s very difficult to predict blast patterns … Certainly there is a track record of catastrophic events around mining.

“They still can’t get our name right”

Halfyard says that NSSA has met with Atlantic Gold representatives five times since December 2016, and that the meetings have been “cordial and friendly.” NSSA has provided Atlantic Gold with their research findings on the waterways in the area, and expressed their concerns that the West River de-acidification project is too valuable to be put at risk by the mine.

Proposed Beaver Dam mine site as of October 2020

“Despite our good faith meetings and the NSSA providing our data,” Halfyard says, “Atlantic Gold has shown no willingness to alter infrastructure plans to accommodate our concerns. Chiefly, the open pit remains too close to the river and the stockpile of organic material has been moving into the adjacent Tent Brook watershed — the site of ongoing helicopter liming.”

He says that NSSA told Atlantic Gold about the value of the helicopter liming project, which costs about half a million dollars a year and is only half done, and asked them to reconsider and move their stockpile elsewhere.

“They came back and said that unfortunately there wasn’t much they could do to change their plans,” says Halfyard.

An email with questions about the Beaver Dam mine to Atlantic Gold’s communications manager, Dustin O’Leary, has so far not been answered.

Halfyard’s faith in Atlantic Gold’s science was deeply shaken by the company’s 2017 Environmental Impact Statement to the IAAC, which, as the NSSA and Atlantic Salmon Federation wrote in an eight-page letter detailing their concerns about the proposal, failed to acknowledge the presence of Atlantic salmon, a species at risk, “within 5 km of the project area.”

Halfyard calls that failure “astounding,” given that there are “80 years of published history of Atlantic salmon being there.”

That was not the only error in the Beaver Dam EIS, according to Halfyard. He says that the Atlantic Gold environmental consultant “actually identified a species of fish that has never previously been identified in the province of Nova Scotia — slimy sculpin in the upper Killag River in the footprint of the mine.”

Says Halfyard:

We looked at that and found it quite interesting. We know each and every species in its distribution within this watershed very, very well, not only through physically sampling these with various trapping techniques … for nearly 20 years. We actually now widely use environmental DNA, a genetic based sampling technique … so we can identify what species are where within these watersheds and throughout the province…

So we know exactly what’s there. And I can assure you that there are no slimy sculpins in this watershed or anywhere within 200 kilometers of this watershed…

We then said clearly, “Your people are not well suited for this job.”

NSSA doing electrofishing sampling to assess juvenile fish populations in the West River. Photo contributed

Halfyard says the NSSA has more than two dozen affiliate groups in the province, and several thousand members, and normally they have a good rapport with everyone they work with, including Northern Timber on whose land their lime doser sits and who have been helpful to NSSA.

However, he wonders about Atlantic Gold.

Despite years of meeting with NSSA and being informed about the West River Acid Rain Mitigation project, the company’s revised EIS submitted to IAAC in 2019 in response to information requests from the federal and provincial governments, refers to the liming programs of the “Atlantic Salmon Conservation Centre,” which doesn’t exist.

Says Halfyard, “I don’t think that they quite understood who they were talking to when they first started talking to us and didn’t understand that we know that river like the back of our hand and have good data to show if there are changes in there.”

“I don’t think that Atlantic Gold fully and well ….” Here Halfyard seems lost for words, and finally ends his sentence this way: “I mean, they still don’t have our name right in their documents. After all this time, they still don’t have our name right.”

“You couldn’t pick two worse spots” for gold mines

Asked if he thinks the proposed gold mine can co-exist with a healthy river system with salmon in it, Halfyard replies:

The Nova Scotia Salmon Association has a long track record of trying to work with industry. We understand that rural areas need jobs. It’s about allowing reasonable progress and reasonable development with the proper assurances and controls to allow safeguards of the most sensitive areas. I think there is a spot for mining in Nova Scotia, but … if you were to look at a map of Nova Scotia and assume there’s gold everywhere, you couldn’t pick two worse spots to plant gold mines than Beaver Dam and Cochrane Hill, owing specifically to the fact that not only are these some of the last bastions of Atlantic salmon where we see real populations remaining, where we have a chance of recovery in them, and where there’s actually been a lot of effort spent.

NSSA president Mike Crosby makes no bones about his opposition to the gold mine, saying:

You’ve got a mine that has an expected life of four to six years that is expected to create some 220 and 280 jobs, if those figures are accurate … And so for a couple of hundred jobs over four years, some of which may not go to Nova Scotians, we appear willing to trade our landscape [for] the potential for disaster in a place where we spent a lot of time and money proving that something could be done and actually doing it. And mining a commodity that really nobody needs. Mine for profit. There’s enough gold in the world. If they never mined another ounce of gold, we wouldn’t miss it.

Crosby doesn’t believe the mine and salmon can co-exist:

We went to several meetings with Atlantic Gold and talked about the potential for doing this and that. But it just gets to the stage where you were either for it or against it … As safe as you may try to make it, the plain and simple fact of life is things happen. And so the [Nova Scotia] Salmon Association has just taken a stance that we’re against it. We’re as cut and dried as that. People may not like that, but our goal is to protect wild Atlantic salmon and the habitats that they’re in and not to build gold mines.

Although he’s not involved with the West River project, Dalhousie University biology professor Jeff Hutchings is also concerned about anything that jeopardizes the health of rivers and wild Atlantic salmon in Nova Scotia. Hutchings tells me:

There’s a long history of mining operations having less than positive impacts on aquatic organisms. So I think one should be extremely mindful and careful about any additional human stressors on those salmon populations.

And salmon, it turns out, are even better than canaries in coal mines when it comes to providing human beings with ecological warnings about what they are doing to the environment. Says Hutchings:

Because salmon migrate between the ocean and through the estuaries into freshwater, it’s one of those few species that is almost like a harbinger of environmental quality. If salmon are doing well, it kind of suggests that those three aquatic ecosystems are doing well. If salmon aren’t doing well, then it suggests that one or more of those three is not where we would like it to be.

Hutchings points out that industrial activity has already led to the disappearance of salmon populations in many rivers in Nova Scotia, climate change is causing higher ocean temperatures, and wild Atlantic salmon populations are all at “increased conservation risk.”

A new report on the “World’s Forgotten Fishes” sounds the alarm about the almost terrifying rate at which freshwater fish species are going extinct, saying that “If freshwater ecosystems deteriorate to the point where they can’t support a healthy population of fish, we can be sure they won’t be fit for humans either.” The report calls for an emergency recovery plan for freshwater biodiversity, including improving water quality in freshwater ecosystems and restoring critical habitat, which is exactly what is being done in West River Sheet Harbour.

What the children say

As we drive back to the city from Killag River, Edmund Halfyard muses aloud about what will happen if the proposed mine goes ahead, and about how — unlike Atlantic Gold’s controversial and contested proposal to mine at Cochrane Hill on the banks of the St. Mary’s River — the Beaver Dam has not garnered the public attention and scrutiny it deserves.

Our lime doser and the Beaver Dam mine [site] sit at the very headwater of some of the most pristine, nice salmon habitat on the whole Eastern Shore, particularly considering the fact that we’ve now addressed the water quality issues — the legacy of acid rain — with our lime doser. The potential impact not just on the fish in that stream, but what that stream means to salmon across the Eastern Shore, and what that stream means for salmon recovery in eastern Canada, it can’t be understated. It’s a very important area. And it would just be hard to find a worse place to jeopardize with a project like that [Beaver Dam gold mine].

Halfyard continues:

Here it is, 2021. I like to think that we as a society have learned from the past, and we’re so fortunate to live in an area where we have the technology and understanding of where we’ve done wrong in the past. There’s a big push in society to correct the wrongs that we have done, to try and leave the planet a better place than how we inherited it. And here we have a true grassroots-led project that has convinced various levels of government and private industry to contribute to a really meaningful project.

It’s world-class science and we actually have measurable results that we can go home and feel good about. The irony is we are just about to potentially approve a project that would not only repeat the gross errors that we’ve done in the past, but maybe undo all of the progress that we’ve made to make up for our previous errors, and leave us off in a worse place than where we started all along, not only crushing the progress and hope for a better future of all the volunteers, but maybe even stymying our ability to learn from this and contribute it elsewhere.

Halfyard tells me his daughters — nine, seven and four years old — work on the river with him whenever they can, particularly when he works weekends. He says they love to handle fish, “especially eels.”

I ask him what he says to them about the possibility that a gold mine could put the restoration work at risk. Halfyard replies:

I have trouble explaining it to my three girls. They’ve been on the project since they’ve been born and they think pretty pragmatically, like a lot of kids do, and they don’t get bogged down in all of the other aspects of it. So they just don’t understand. They think that their dad helps put medicine in the water for fish, to fix them up. And they don’t understand how we could ever want to have something like a gold mine put more poison into the river, as they put it. So yeah, it’s a hard thing to explain to kids, because it just doesn’t make sense.

Cover photo: Killag River near the planned Beaver Dam gold mine. Photo: Joan Baxter

[1] Since 2018, the Halifax Examiner has published extensively on gold mining in Nova Scotia, and on Atlantic Gold. Below is a list of some of those articles:

 May 16, 2018            Fool’s Gold Part 1: Welcome to the Gold Rush https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/fools-gold/ and: https://capebretonspectator.com/2018/05/16/joan-baxter-ns-quarries-gold-dnr/

May 23, 2018            Fool’s Gold Part 2: Going for gold https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/fools-gold-2/ and: https://capebretonspectator.com/2018/05/23/gold-mining-nova-scotia-baxter/

May 30, 2018            Fool’s Gold Part 3: Cobequid Gold and Tatamagouche water https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/fools-gold-3/ and:  https://capebretonspectator.com/2018/05/30/cobequid-hills-gold-warwick-dnr/

June 13, 2018           Fool’s Gold Part 4: How the mining lobby is working to undermine environmental protection in Nova Scotia https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/fools-gold-4/ and: https://capebretonspectator.com/2018/06/13/fools-gold-part-iv-quarry-baxter/

Jan. 25, 2019            Friends of St. Mary’s River say “NOPE” to Atlantic Gold https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/environment/friends-of-st-marys-river-say-nope-to-atlantic-gold/

March 15, 2019       Spill at Moose River gold mine raises environmental concerns: Atlantic Gold springs an effluent leak, plugs a new mine, and sells itself to investors https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/spill-at-moose-river-gold-mine-raises-environmental-concerns/

May 17, 2019            The $722 million deal: An Australian company is buying the Vancouver company that owns Nova Scotia’s largest gold mining operation; What’s in it for us? https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/the-722-million-deal/

May 24, 2019            RCMP violently remove and arrest citizen at public meeting about gold mine https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/rcmp-violently-remove-and-arrest-citizen-at-public-meeting-about-gold-mine/

May 27, 2019            Setting the record straight on Atlantic Gold’s spin job https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/setting-the-record-straight-on-atlantic-golds-spin-job/

June 3, 2019             St. Barbara still intends to acquire Atlantic Gold: The violent arrest of John Perkins has put the critical spotlight on gold mining on the Eastern Shore, but for the mining companies, operating in low-regulation and low-royalty Nova Scotia is, well, a gold mine. https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/st-barbara-still-intends-to-acquire-atlantic-gold/

June 25, 2019           After the gold rush: Nova Scotia is ignoring the toxic legacy of past mining manias while rushing headlong into the next https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/after-the-gold-rush/

Oct. 13, 2019              Gold fever is coming to Halifax: Mineral exploration companies have staked claims next to the Halifax and Dartmouth lakes that are the source of our drinking water. https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/gold-fever-is-coming-to-halifax/

Oct. 16, 2019             Joan Kuyek: Our job is to take our governments back from the mining interests https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/environment/joan-kuyek-our-job-is-to-take-our-governments-back-from-the-mining-interests/

Oct. 25, 2019            Nova Scotia government doubles down on gold mining https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/nova-scotia-government-doubles-down-on-gold-mining/

Feb. 5, 2020              Survey says: Why are people calling me with pro-mining propaganda? https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/survey-says-why-are-people-calling-me-with-pro-mining-propaganda/

Mar. 1, 2020             Port Wallace Gamble: the real estate boom meets Nova Scotia’s toxic mine legacy: Part 1. The making of a toxic mess and the uncalculated costs of previous gold rushes. https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/port-wallace-gamble-the-real-estate-boom-meets-nova-scotias-toxic-mine-legacy/

Mar. 2, 2020             Port Wallace Gamble: the real estate boom meets Nova Scotia’s toxic mine legacy: Part 2. The suburb proposed to be built in the shadow of Montague Gold Mines https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/port-wallace-gamble-the-real-estate-boom-meets-nova-scotias-toxic-mine-legacy-2/

Mar. 3, 2020              Port Wallace Gamble: the real estate boom meets Nova Scotia’s toxic mine legacy: Part 3. Cleaning up the historic tailings from Montague Gold Mines – does Port Wallace Development hang in the balance? https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/port-wallace-gamble-the-real-estate-boom-meets-nova-scotias-toxic-mine-legacy-3/

Mar. 5, 2020             Profits before people: Nova Scotia is offering its “world class mineral deposits to the world https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/profits-before-people-nova-scotia-is-offering-its-world-class-mineral-deposits-to-the-world/

Mar. 11, 2020       Atlantic Gold’s incommunicative communications (item in Morning File) https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/featured/thank-you-for-the-interest/

Mar. 25, 2020       Atlantic Gold is waging a propaganda blitz in Nova Scotia https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/atlantic-gold-is-waging-a-propaganda-blitz-in-nova-scotia/

April 3, 2020            The Moose River betrayal: In 2008, the approval of the Moose River gold mine was conditioned on the mining company giving the province hundreds of acres of conservation land within four years; 12 years later, there’s still no approved plan in place. https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/featured/the-moose-river-betrayal/

Dec. 23, 2020           Nova Scotia has laid charges for 32 environmental infractions against Atlantic Gold https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/environment/nova-scotia-has-laid-charges-for-32-environmental-infractions-against-atlantic-gold/

Jan. 20, 2021            Atlantic Gold is going to court: The St. Barbara Limited company is facing 32 environmental charges, even as more complaints roll in https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/environment/atlantic-gold-is-going-to-court/

Jan. 27, 2021          Atlantic Gold paid $0 in taxes in 2019: Even as the company is in court facing 32 charges of polluting the environment, the promised windfall in tax revenue is proving illusionary. https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/environment/atlantic-gold-paid-0-in-taxes-in-2019/

[2] The Moose River Consolidated Project documents were previously available on the Atlantic Gold website, but since its acquisition by St Barbara, are no longer to be found there. They can be found using the Internet Archive “Wayback Machine”, and retrieving erstwhile pages from the Atlantic Gold website: http://www.atlanticgoldcorporation.com/projects/moose_river/

Joan Baxter is an award-winning Nova Scotian journalist and author of seven books, including "The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest." Website: www.joanbaxter.ca; Twitter @joan_baxter

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  1. Thank you so much Joan for this powerful article. It’s astounding what lengths this Gold Mining industry will go to, to profit off of poor old Nova Scotia without paying taxes to boot. It’s high time for our Politicians step in and protect our interests their integrity in my opinion depends on it! Unbelievable greed with people starving in this world. I’ll always believe in the good fight and that Mr Halfyard’s perseverance will pay off. Sincerely, Karen

  2. Informative for sure. The potential for habitat protection is so enhanced by the efforts of people involved in the liming and on-going monitoring of the waterways and environs, and, still mining companies show no willingness to acknowledge their impact on this ecosystem and do not accommodate to any degree. Same old modus operandi- trot out the potential for (short-term) work and to hell with the legacies.

  3. What an incredible article Joan !! I had no idea what was being done in and around Killag River to try and restore the acidity of the river and surrounding lands.
    My grandfather also George Clark bought property on the LaHave river up by Cooksville bridge and built a camp years ago, maybe even in the 1930’s or 40’s. I’ve got a picture of the cars in front of the camp and pictures of we as kids with salmon, that he caught. He and his friends went there to hunt and fish salmon. Those salmon disappeared years ago, maybe from the same acidity problem or the fact that the town of Bridgewater had been dumping raw sewage in the LaHave River for years and years !
    Does the NS gov’t have any idea whatsoever or even know where Killag River is ?
    Why is it even allowed for a foreign country business allowed to own property here and to destroy the land.
    Thank you for the article !!

    1. The Nova Scotia government is involved in the West River Sheet Harbour acid-rain mitigation project on the Killag River – the Department of Lands and Forestry provides the helicopters that are doing the liming.