Ecology Action Centre raises red flag of potential mine abandonment

Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023

Kjipuktuk/Halifax - The Ecology Action Centre warns that a recent change to a mine in New Brunswick could be a preview of things to come for a gold mine in Nova Scotia. 

The Caribou Mine in New Brunswick has recently gone into “care and maintenance mode,” meaning it’s not quite closed but it is also no longer mining. The current mine owners have filed for bankruptcy and could soon abandon the site, leaving the New Brunswick government holding the bag for site cleanup and liability. This is an all too familiar tactic used by the mining industry to get out of responsibilities and costs for decommissioning and reclaiming mines after their profitable life is over, and the same sequence of events could play out in Nova Scotia. 

“The parallel to Nova Scotia lies in the Touquoy mine at Moose River (Eastern Shore), which has recently stopped mining and is now only processing previously mined ore at the site,” says Karen McKendry, wilderness outreach coordinator with the EAC. “The company has announced it will go to care and maintenance mode next year, and the company has restructured to distance itself from 'non-core assets' like the Touquoy mine." 

McKendry adds, “The corporate restructuring clearly offloads impaired assets from a large gold mining company to an orphan junior player, with a much weaker balance sheet and ability to deal with troubled assets that now remain at the Touquoy mine. This restructuring significantly reduces environmental risks to the parent company and its new partner, and offloads future environmental risks and problems to a junior company, or ultimately to the Nova Scotia taxpayer.” 

The EAC is concerned that once processing at the Touquoy mine is complete and the mine remains no longer useful or profitable for the newly created company in charge, the mine will go into care and maintenance mode, then the company will abandon the mine. Nova Scotians need to know that although modern mining companies pay into a reclamation bond held with the province, reclamation plans and expenses are not acted upon until the mine is declared closed — not when mines are in care and maintenance mode. Care and maintenance mode puts a mine in indefinite limbo, leaving an unaddressed environmental hazard which can ultimately end up as a contaminated site to be dealt with at taxpayer expense. 

“Nova Scotians have reasons to be concerned about the future of the Touquoy mine, including questioning who will eventually pay for its cleanup,” warns McKendry. “When the mine-owner-of-the-day leaves we shouldn’t let them exploit weaknesses in Nova Scotia’s laws so that they can get off scot-free. Our province has received no corporate tax from this mine project, and has eked out only one per cent royalties from the hundreds of millions of dollars this Australian company made on mining Nova Scotian gold.” 

Mining for gold is not needed as part of the transitions to technologies that support a switch to clean energy, such as electric cars. Natural Resources Canada’s and Nova Scotia’s list of “critical minerals” for the green energy transition does not include gold. Recycled gold is abundant, widely available and has substantially reduced impacts on carbon emissions, biodiversity loss and water. Nova Scotians must be diligent against taking on even more financial and environmental impact from this highly destructive and polluting industry. 

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Karen McKendry Wilderness Outreach Coordinator | Ecology Action Centre

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