What do we want, Gold or Water! We can't have both!

Reference Number

I am writing this letter in response to the revised EIS for the proposed Beaver Dam Mine site on the West River Sheet Harbour. 

I was born and raised in Nova Scotia, and by trade, I am an environmental technician with over 30 years of relevant environmental work experience. I have a strong understanding of historic gold mining impacts in Nova Scotia through working with private consulting companies examining impacts to sediment and water quality in the Waverly area. While technology has changed, local geology has not, and therefore the risks are much greater given the scale of the proposed project. 

My association with this part of Nova Scotia stems from being an outdoorsman.  I fish trout annually in some of the nearby lakes and I hope to be able to fish for Atlantic Salmon on the West River Sheet Harbour once the resource has improved to the point where recreational salmon fishing is again permitted.  

I am strongly against this mine getting approval as it will result in the death of the West River Sheet Harbour.  There has never been an open pit gold mine in the world (either historical or modern) that did not damage ecosystem health.  The West River Sheet Harbour is already an acid rain impacted river that has been remarkably brought back to life by the NS Salmon Association and other partners.  This community-based, award-winning project has been very successful and has received national and international attention.   And here we are, watching an internationally owned company proposing to move in and start a gold mine literally meters away from the river.  There is very low benefit to the province or country from this proposed mine, and the risks are unacceptably high.

Some of my concerns include;

  • Damage to fish and fish habitat from the physical development of the mine site and associated infrastructure. 
    • Once the trees are cut and the ground is opened, the geology is exposed to the weathering process resulting in acid-mine drainage. Ultimately, water quality in the West River Sheet Harbour watershed will be forever contaminated;
    • It has been demonstrated repeatedly across the globe, the difficulty in controlling surface water runoff from industrial mining development. The company has already shown its hand in what has happened at Moose River (covered below); 
    • Do we really want to allow a gold mine to undue all the work of the Nova Scotia Salmon Association and to jeopardize the highly prized Atlantic salmon, a COSEWIC-assessed species at risk?  Atlantic salmon are struggling in the southern upland region of Nova Scotia, and the West River Sheet Harbour project is a very good success story that has demonstrated acid-impacted rivers can be restored;
    • The potential for a breach or failure from the proposed tailings pond (or quarry pit) is high in my opinion and cannot be mitigated forever.  Sooner or later, it will fail.  It is just a matter of time; 
    • Any water uses from the river for this project, or any increase in summer water temperatures from tree cutting at the project site will damage fish and fish habitat;
    • Contaminated dust generated on site has the potential to damage ecosystems well beyond the immediate footprint of the mine.
  • Trust:  Not surprisingly, Atlantic Gold has only been around NS for a few years, but they have already lost their social license.  At an initial public meeting on another nearby mine development, they had their staff physically remove citizens from a public meeting who had legitimate environmental concerns.  Not a good start for a company who claims to care about our environment. They have amply demonstrated their inability to control surface water run-off from the Moose River Development.  With no fewer than 32 current provincial environmental charges and 3 Federal charges facing them, they simply expect us to trust them at other proposed gold mining sites. No amount of mitigation or planning can prevent downstream water contamination from occurring under annual flood events.  Rainfall intensity curves are rising throughout the Maritimes as our climate changes, and to suggest surface water run-off can be mitigated is simply ridiculous. 
  • Confidence in monitoring/enforcement and follow-up.  Recent media reports suggest the NS government is currently challenged in monitoring and/or remediating former gold mine sites (Recent NS Auditor General Comments), some of which are well over 100 years old.  To be fair, the NS government is still in the process of assessing for potential contamination and remediation of 66 former mine sites on NS Crown Land.  And the proposed mine at Beaver Dam is “not like your grandfather’s mine,” it is, in fact, on a scale much, much, much worse. 

In closing my submission, I would like to re-enforce my belief that this project represents a significant and unacceptable degree of environmental risk. The footprint of the mine will have cumulative, long lasting effects on downstream receiving waters as well as the broader ecosystem.  Many of the long-term cumulative effects remain unknown.

And finally, on the economics of the mine, this project is really of low benefit to the province and country. With extremely low royalties paid to the province, what is the actual benefit of this mine besides short term employment?   And what is the gold being used for?  Do we really need this resource, or is it just as an item for storage and financial market growth?  Short term economic prosperity and job creation for the benefit of an international company doesn’t sound appealing if we are being asked to obliterate a section of the province we love, leaving a tailings pond to fail for future generations to clean up.  To allow this to proceed would be a travesty.  We can and must do better. 

Given the full picture of known risks to human and ecosystem health, and given the uncertainties of the cumulative environmental effects, this project must not proceed.  Keep the gold in the ground and let's pass on the legacy of good water, wild rivers and wild fish to the next generation!  


Submitted by
Public Notice
Public Notice - Public Comments Invited on a Revised Summary of the Environmental Impact Statement
Date Submitted
2021-12-17 - 4:34 PM
Date modified: