Warwick Mountain (Eastern Cobequid Highlands) Project

Question: What is the background of the Warwick Mountain Project?

Field studies by DNR scientists, which commenced in 2011, discovered that the geology within the Cobequid Mountain project area contained indications of a geological environment favourable for gold mineralization. Previously, the area’s exploration potential had been less well understood compared to other parts of the province. To provide DNR scientists with an uninterrupted opportunity to further study the area, and to better promote the gold-exploration potential, after the work by DNR scientists would be released to the public, the Minister of Natural Resources placed a closure on private-sector mineral exploration over the Project Area. The Minister announced the closure on March 4, 2016, under authority in the Mineral Resources Act. DNR scientists have been studying the geology of the Project Area, and are currently assembling a virtual, or digital library, which will include data and information intended to assist private-sector exploration companies make informed investment and exploration decisions. In 2016, Minister Hines announced that the approach of closing the Project Area for exploration, having DNR scientists complete their extensive study, and using an Request for Proposals (RFP) process to attract a company having the very best exploration models and tools, was an innovative approach to growing the province’s mineral sector.

Today, the field work by DNR scientists is complete, the data library is being assembled, and DNR is drafting the RFP process. To meet the department’s objectives, to promote Nova Scotia’s economic development potential and competitiveness, and to meet the expectations of industry, DNR is committed to releasing the data room and launching the RFP process in the spring of 2018.

Question: Is there a risk that mineral exploration could lead to contamination in my well water?

Regulations are in place that protect water wells from mineral exploration activities. Most mineral exploration activities do not require any disturbance of land. The exceptions to this are activities like trenching and drilling. Both activities are regulated by legislation to ensure minimal land disturbance, and return of the land to stable conditions after the exploration work is completed.

Question: Does acid rock drainage (ARD) pose a risk in the Warwick Mountain Project area?

Acid rock drainage (ARD) is produced when sulphide-bearing material (typically pyrite) is exposed to oxygen and water, and is a naturally occurring phenomenon. This is not to be confused with acid mine drainage (AMD), which is acid emanating from mine waste rock and tailings. Numerous studies have been conducted on the production and effects of ARD in Nova Scotia, but mostly on rocks in the southern part of the province in what we call the Halifax Group. There, very sulphide-rich bedrock has produced abundant ARD and severely contaminated surface and groundwater, as well as some soils. The rocks in the northern part of the province are not as sulphide-rich as those to the south. In addition, these northern rocks tend to have more carbonate minerals associated with them, which naturally neutralize the acidic water. Although every area is unique in terms of its ARD potential, and hence its effects can vary from site to site, rocks in the Warwick Mountain study area are not a great concern for ARD production.

Question: What role does government play in protecting community and land-owner rights in the area?

Residents should have questions about the nature of mineral exploration activities, and how the environment will be protected at all stages of a project. You may know that there are almost 1000 mineral [exploration] licenses active in the province. DNR requires that all mineral license holders – in Cumberland County and elsewhere – comply with the requirements of the Mineral Resources Act and the Environment Act, as well as all other relevant Acts and regulations (e.g., possibly including but not limited to the Fisheries Act and Species at Risk Act). In addition, exploration companies may be required to comply with management strategies contained within municipal source water protection plans. Nova Scotia Environment compliance officers will investigate allegations of non-compliance with the Environment Act and Mineral Resources Act on exploration projects. In addition, companies exploring on Crown land will be subject to any terms and conditions as established by DNR’s Integrated Resource Management process. Private land owners may establish their own, reasonable terms and conditions on mineral exploration license holders, as a condition to receiving permission to access land.