Protecting Archibald Lake to impact gold mine project

Pictured is the Archibald Lake Wilderness Area in Guysborough County.

HALIFAX: The decision to provide provincial wilderness protection for property in Guysborough County will impact a potential gold mine project in the area.

On January 10, environment minister Gordon Wilson launched public consultations on six new protected areas, including the Archibald Lake Wilderness Area in Guysborough County.

About 10 hectares around Archibald Brook is subject to mineral exploration rights, which are permitted under the Wilderness Areas Protection Act, provided activities do not degrade the wilderness area.

Archibald Lake is also identified as a water source for Atlantic Gold’s proposed Cochrane Hill Gold Project, but as a result of last week’s decision, the company’s proposed use of Archibald Lake cannot be permitted within a wilderness area.

Nova Scotia Environment spokesperson Rachel Boomer told The Reporter that the province “reconsidered” their decision to not include the Archibald Lake area in the final Parks and Protected Areas because it will complement other existing and proposed protected areas in the St. Mary’s watershed.

“Archibald Lake is identified as a possible site for sourcing raw water for mine operations and for discharging surface water run-off and seepage from the mine site,” Boomer explained. “Such use of Archibald Lake would not be permitted within a wilderness area.

“Questions about the viability of the mine and what other water bodies it might use should be directed to the company.”

Atlantic Mining Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Atlantic Gold Corporation, is proposing the construction, operation, decommissioning, and reclamation of an open-pit gold mine in Goldboro. The Cochrane Hill Gold Project would include one open pit, material storage, site infrastructure, crusher and concentrator facilities, an above-ground tailings management facility, mine site haul roads, and access roads.

The Archibald Lake area encompasses 684 hectares of woodlands, lakes and several small wetlands in the watershed of Archibald Brook, an important tributary of the St. Mary’s River. The area consists of Archibald, McDonald and Rocky lakes (240 hectares altogether), along with surrounding provincial lands. At least 300 hectares is old hardwood forest on elongated hills (drumlins). The remainder is primarily mature or older hardwood forest on hills and mature softwood forest on flatter terrain. This forest provides important habitat for species that depend on or prefer old forest. The watershed of Archibald Brook provides quality habitat for brook trout and other aquatic species. Nearly the entire site consists of ecosystem elements that are poorly represented in Nova Scotia’s protected areas network, including the well-drained hardwood drumlins. It also overlaps with a mainland moose concentration zone delineated by the Department of Lands and Forestry.

With the lakes and surrounding hardwood hills, this is a very scenic area. It is used and enjoyed for a variety of outdoor activities, including sport fishing, hunting, camping and camp use. Three campsite leases occur on Archibald Lake. These will be honoured under the Wilderness Areas Protection Act. The proposed boundary avoids forest access roads and trails wherever practical. Depending on interest, the final boundary can be adjusted to accommodate public vehicle access to one or more of the lakes.

The St. Mary’s River Provincial Park, also in Guysborough County was promised protection in September and no consultation is required.

Boomer said there are no plans to hold public meetings.

Nova Scotians can have their say on-line by visiting: https://novascotia.ca/parksandprotectedareas/. Nova Scotians can also choose to submit their feedback to: protectedareas@novascotia.ca, calling 902-476-4012, or by writing to: Protected Areas and Ecosystems – P.O. Box 442, Halifax, NS, B3J 2P8.

The deadline to provide feedback is March 9.