After several years of work on this project, our geologists have developed our understanding of the area and generated lots of information. Here are some additional topics that may be of interest:
The exploration and mining cycle consists of the sequential steps involved to explore, discover, document, carry out feasibility studies, proceed through the environmental and regulatory approvals process, construct, develop, and remediate the site following mining.
The Warwick Mountain project is at the exploration stage of this cycle. Many years of exploration are necessary to explore for and discover a mineral deposit. Most exploration projects do not result in a discovery. Estimates vary, but somewhere between 1 in 5,000 to 1 in 10,000 exploration projects result in the discovery of a deposit which will be mined.
In general, mineral exploration has minimal impacts on the environment. Exploration activities are regulated by the Mineral Resources Act, the Environment Act, the provincial Endangered Species Act, as well as the federal Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act.
When exploration occurs on public land, government may require a reclamation security be set aside. If a company fails to remediate a site, the security allows government to reclaim the site. Private land owners may also request that companies provide them with a security deposit to carry out work on private land.
If a company reaches the point where it wants to open a mine, funding will be set aside to restore the environment when the mine permanently closes. The province can access this in the event the company goes out of business. The funding amount is based on the reclamation plan, and it is protected from other potential claims.
Geologists have discovered a few occurrences of rocks containing elevated gold concentrations. However, the rocks in the area and the nature of how they formed, suggest there is potential for gold mineralization in the area.
Mapping by the department’s geologists over the last few years determined that only a portion of the area within the closure area has potential for gold mineralization. The area contained within the Call for Proposals covers this specific suite of rocks and, thus, the rest of the area is not included in the Call for Proposals.
Typically, exploration companies apply for mineral exploration licences using the Province’s internet application called NovaROC. However, for the Warwick Mountain project, the area is not available on the internet application. In 2016, the government chose to withhold any licence applications for the Warwick Mountain area while department geologists had a chance to better study the geology.
A mineral exploration licence allows a company or individual to explore for minerals under the Mineral Resources Act. An exploration licence does not grant permission to undertake mining. A Mineral Lease allows for mining to occur after the proponent has met all of the environmental and industrial approvals under the Environment Act and the Mineral Resources Act. Safety issues related to mines must also comply with regulations under the Nova Scotia Department of Labour.
Many types of exploration activities have been undertaken in water supply areas over the last few decades. The Mineral Resources Act and the Environment Act apply to exploration in these areas, as do other acts and regulations (e.g. possibly 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.
There are mines currently located within municipal water supply areas in Canada. An example is Tahoe Resources’ Timmins West mine, 19 km west of Timmins, ON. This mine is within 100 m of a major tributary of the Mattagami River, from which the city of Timmins draws its water supply. The mine is 36 km run of river upstream from the water intake site, and within the city’s Intake Protection Zone 3. Ore is not processed at the site. It is trucked to another facility outside of the Intake Protection Zone.
The Crown owns the mineral rights in Nova Scotia. Minerals are not owned by landowners. Landowner permission is necessary for companies holding a mineral exploration license to gain access to privately owned land. This permission cannot be unreasonably denied.
We know that residents and property owners will 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 already more than 1,300 mineral exploration licenses active in the province.
Nova Scotia requires 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 Lands and Forestry’s Integrated Resource Management process. Private land owners may establish their own, terms and conditions on mineral exploration license holders, as a condition to receiving permission to access land.
Rocks in the Warwick Mountain study area do not present a significant concern for acid rock drainage (ARD). ARD is a naturally occurring phenomenon. It occurs when rocks containing sulphide minerals (pyrite, for example) are exposed to oxygen and water. ARD is not to be confused with acid mine drainage (AMD), which occurs when acid emanates from mine waste rock and tailings.
Numerous studies have been conducted on the production and effects of ARD in Nova Scotia, mainly on rocks in the southern part of the province. There, sulphide-bearing bedrock has produced ARD and locally 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 in the south. In addition, the northern rocks tend to contain a higher concentration of carbonate minerals. Carbonate minerals have the capacity to naturally neutralize acidic water.