Atlantic Gold faces 32 charges for violating provincial environmental laws; yesterday we learned that the company is also facing three federal charges

Clay excavation near Atlantic Gold Moose River Mine Photo: Mitchell Glawson

A lawyer for Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia was in court yesterday to enter pleas to a total of 32 charges under provincial law Environmental Law related to the company’s surface mining at Moose River and gold exploration at Fifteen Mile Stream on the East Coast – but those pleas have not been entered.

In addition to the 32 provincial charges, the Halifax Examiner has learned that Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia, a subsidiary of Atlantic Gold which is owned by Australia’s St Barbara Ltd, also faces three charges filed under the law. federal. Fisheries Act.

The mining company’s lawyer, Robert Grant, has requested an adjournment – the third adjournment since the company first appeared in provincial court in January this year – indicating that discussions between prosecutors and the company are continuing. A form of settlement agreement related to the charges and the fine is expected to be presented to Judge Alanna Murphy in July at a fourth hearing.

The three new charges laid by Environment Canada on March 21, 2021 under federal law Fisheries Act relate to sedimentation and fish habitat. The violation of federal regulations allegedly occurred between September 27, 2018 and April 29, 2020. The court documents list these three counts:

Failure to sample effluent for an acute lethality test of an unauthorized deposit of a deleterious substance, namely: effluent containing sediment, in water frequented by fish, namely: a watercourse no name containing fish at the Touquoy mine site, in violation of Art. . 31.1(1) of the Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations, and thus committed an offense under s. 78 of the Fisheries Act.

Failure to promptly notify of an unauthorized deposit of a deleterious substance, namely: a sediment-laden effluent, in water frequented by fish, namely: an unnamed fish-bearing watercourse on the mine site Touquoy, in violation of art. 38(5) of the Fisheries Act and thus committed an offense under s. 78 of the Fisheries Act.

Is a written report required of an unauthorized deposit of a deleterious substance, namely: a sediment-laden effluent in a water frequented by fish, namely: an unnamed fish-bearing watercourse at the mine site Touquoy, in violation of art. 38(7) of the Fisheries Act and thus committed an offense under s. 78 of the Fisheries Act.

Atlantic Mining’s attorney has not yet argued these charges or the 32 others that Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change filed in September 2020 under the Nova Scotia Environment Act. As the Halifax Examiner reported here, most of the charges relate to silty runoff at the Moose River mine site between February 8, 2018 and May 9, 2020.

Thirteen of the 32 charges are for “release [a] substance in [the] environment in [an] quantity, concentration or level exceeding regulatory approval level”, in violation of Section 68(2) of the Environmental Law.

Sixteen other counts relate to failure to comply with the terms and conditions of an approval, contrary to section 158 (f) of the Environmental Law and Condition 15d and 7a of Industrial Approval 2012-084244-05.

Industrial Approval includes the conditions Atlantic Mining must meet to operate a massive open-pit gold mine.

Essentially, a mine site must have a plan for dealing with storms. Section 15d of the Industrial Approval states:

The site must be laid out and maintained in such a way as to prevent the discharge of surface water contaminants into a watercourse, wetland, water resource or beyond the limits of the property…

A spokesperson for Atlantic Mining reportedly blamed “heavy rain” for the incidents which occurred on various dates during the time period covered by the charges. In January 2021, Joan Baxter reported to the examiner of the charges and her extensive review of weather records for those dates suggests that precipitation levels rarely reached or exceeded levels that Environment Canada defines as heavy rain.

Three other charges laid under Nova Scotia Environmental Law relate to the taking of water for exploration drilling at locations 30 kilometers from the Moose River mine at Seloam Brook and five kilometers northeast of Jed Lake, near Fifteen Mile Stream, where Atlantic Gold has planned one of three new gold mines on the east coast.

The timing of the trial is awkward for the mining company, which is currently trying to convince citizens and the provincial government to support the opening of two additional gold mines proposed for Beaver Dam and Fifteen Mile Stream on the east coast. These impact assessments are ongoing and are currently undergoing federal review by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada.

The company is also preparing to submit a list of modifications to its Touquoy open-pit gold mine in Moose River to Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change for a provincial review, and held an online “briefing” on the amendments proposed on May 31.

Atlantic Mining will appear in provincial court on July 7 to plead all 35 counts under federal law Fisheries Act and not. Environmental Law.

With files by Joan Baxter.