HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s Environment Department has approved an application from the owners of the Touquoy gold mine to raise the height of the wall of its existing tailings waste pond.
Australian-based St Barbara's proposal to raise the tailings wall has been opposed by environmental groups, such as the Ecology Action Centre, which have voiced concerns about the potential for a dam breach.
But the company issued a statement Wednesday saying modifications to its industrial permit will allow it to proceed with construction “in the coming weeks.”
CEO Craig Jetson said the outcome was the result of improved “co-ordination and communication” with the provincial and federal governments. “I am keen to continue to develop the new collaborative approach with the government which helped with the delivery of today’s permit,” Jetson said.
The company had said it would have to suspend the open pit operation in Moose River, N.S., if its application wasn’t approved by early August.
The Environment Department confirmed the approval in an email issued later in the day. “After a thorough review, the administrator is satisfied that the proposed activities are in line with the applicable legislation, regulations, policies, and standards,” the department said. “Raising the height of the tailings facility provides the company with required capacity.”
The department said the height increase does not increase the existing footprint of the mine. It said the provincial government's job is to ensure projects "that benefit Nova Scotians economically and increase employment can move forward, while continuing to protect the environment.”
The company added that the decision will extend gold production at the mine site until December 2024.
In May, Environment Minister Tim Halman gave St Barbara’s Canadian subsidiary, Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia Inc., one year to submit more information on the environmental effects of a separate application to store Touquoy's tailings in an open pit once mining is completed.
St Barbara said it wants to develop three other proposed gold mines located nearby that are currently in various stages of the regulatory process.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2022.
The Canadian Press