Nova Scotia Journal

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Region releases risk ranking of potentially contaminated old mines

Nova Scotia

Key takeaways: 

  • Most sites with the highest chance scores are ex-gold mining sites.
  • The tailings — the material dumped after gold has been processed — at the historical gold mine in Montague Gold Mines, N.S., have so much arsenic that no vegetation grows there. 

The region has released its threat ranking of possible contaminated historical mine sites — a year and a half after it said it would.

The list has 69 sites strewn across the area, once home to a range of mining processes dating back to the 1800s. The CBC asked about the ranking under freedom-of-information laws.

Most leading sites are old gold mines, while many lower-ranking ones were once home to other kinds of mines, including copper, coal, and limestone.

People flocked to Nova Scotia from around the globe in the latter half of the 1800s to track for unique flecks of gold. But gold processing was not subject to environmental rules at that time, and materials including chemicals such as mercury and arsenic were left on the land and in waterways, leaving a heritage of contamination that lives to this day.

Read more: The fire at a 3-story residential structure in Dartmouth is under probe

The region has released its threat ranking of possible contaminated historical mine sites — a year and a half after it said it would

Donnie Burke, the executive director of environmental assessment and remediation for the regional cleanup agency, Nova Scotia Lands, said the area wanted to collect as much information as possible about the places before the list was released.

“We didn’t want people to be panicked thought they were living next door to, you know, some tainted soup.”

The list was made by exploring each site for human health hazards, the extent of the site, chemical and physical properties, and ecology. Human health risks were given more weight than the other types.

Burke stated people should not panic if they see a site about their neighborhood on the list, as the contaminants are somewhat stable in most places.

Source – CBC News

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