HALIFAX: The Ecology Action Centre (EAC) is raising concerns over two major gold mining approvals made by the Nova Scotia government earlier this month, including one in Goldboro.
On Aug. 2, Signal Gold Inc.’s proposal for their Goldboro-based double open pit gold mine was approved by Minister of the Environment and Climate Change (NSECC), Tim Halman.
Mimi O’Handley, who is EAC’s wetlands and water coordinator, suggested the department’s decisions facilitate the dramatic expansion of gold mining in Nova Scotia, all to the detriment to the people, nature and the public purse.
“We really don’t need open pit gold mining here in Nova Scotia, and we really don’t need open pit gold mining anywhere in the world,” O’Handley told The Reporter. “Because we have more than enough mined gold that exists in the world to sustain the needs of humans.”
Sometimes, she said there is a misconception that we need a lot of gold for our technology or dentistry.
“While gold is used in those, it’s a very small total amount of gold,” O’Handley said. “About eight to 10 per cent is used in those industries and the rest is used for jewelry or sits as gold bullion in the bank or in vaults.”
She also explained gold can also be recycled infinitely, so the gold that’s already mined is not going anywhere or isn’t deteriorating in anyway.
On top of just not needing it, O’Handley also raises concerns that gold mining is a very risky industry.
“It has huge negative consequences for both the environment, and also local communities,” she said. “So we just believe it’s indefensible to put the environment and local communities at risk for an industry that’s unnecessary.”
Looking at this specific gold mine, O’Handley advised a lot of wetlands will be destroyed.
“I believe it’s 112 wetlands that are going to be impacted by this project,” she said. “Including 18 wetlands that are designated or presumed to be WSS’, which stands for Wetlands with Special Significance and that means that a species at risk relies on that wetland for their survival and their habitat.”
According to the wetlands policy in Nova Scotia, she said, WSS’ cannot be altered at all.
“And yet 18 of them will be directly impacted and seven of them will be totally destroyed completely,” O’Handley said. “Wetlands are so important, they are huge carbon sequesters and when we alter and destroy them, we release that carbon so they go from a climate change mitigate to a climate change contributor because of the humid activity.”
When asked how the project could be approved with 18 WSS’ being impacted, she explained she’s asking herself the same question.
“That’s still something I’m trying to figure out as well,” O’Handley said. “It’s very clear in the wetland policy that a WSS cannot be altered, so it’s really disappointing to see the project was approved given how many WSS’ are in that area.”
Despite the short-term economic activity associated with this project, she urges decision makers to think about both the long-term environmental and economic consequences posed by toxic waste and environmental destruction from the open pit gold mining industry.
“If you’re looking long-term, economically, environmentally and socially, in fact, gold mining does not contribute to that and there’s going to be negative consequences for all three,” O’Handley said. “It will come right out of taxpayers money to pay for the cleanup of these mines.”
Highlighting Atlantic Gold’s project that pays no corporate provincial tax, yet provincial funds contribute to making the company profitable, she explained in 2019, the province spent $2.7 million to fix the public road to the Touquoy mine, which had been badly damaged by the trucks using it to access the mine.
“We need a fair transition for those working in the industry to good, sustainable jobs where they are needed,” O’Handley said. “We need our government to make economic decisions that help Nova Scotians build a better future, not ones that prop up outdated and dangerous industries for the sake of short-term profit.”