gold mine tailings
Invasive & vulnerable species
Chinese mystery snails
legacy of arsenic and mercury contamination.
We are continuing this research
in 2020-2021. If you are interested in potential applications of
research, joining our research group or would like to contribute
data analyses, please
email Dr. Linda
materials ("tailings") from mining activities which took place in
1800's can remain contaminated and toxic even over 100 years
This is a national and international issue. The DEEHR
group is developing biomonitoring and remediation approaches for
impacts of those tailings on freshwater ecosystems and organisms
rely on those freshwater resources. Our focus is on Nova Scotia
gold mine tailings, and our goals are to develop methodology which
be used to remediate not only those sites but can also be applied to
similar impacted sites around the world.
Scotia has a long history of
mining going back to the mid-1800’s. There are over 360
mines in 64 historic gold mining districts in the Cambro-Ordovician
Meguma Supergroup, stretching over a 300-km length of NS. Between
and the mid-1940’s, 1.2 million troy ounces of gold
were extracted, typically using mercury amalgamation techniques. Due
a lack of environmental regulations in the 1800’s, there is a modern
legacy of three million tonnes of finely-ground contaminated waste
arsenic remain elevated and of concern even 100 years later. Mercury-recovery
were practiced, but frequently 10 – 25% of mercury was lost
to the environment through various means at each ore processing
It has been conservatively estimated that a total of 3.7 to 9.1
of mercury may have been released to the NS environment from the
to the 1940’s. Since the original ore also included arsenopyrite and
other arsenic-bearing pyrites, the gold-mine tailings also contain
arsenic. After processing, untreated tailings were frequently
into nearby freshwater systems without regard for the consequences.
legacy of localized tailing wastes near freshwater sites in 64
gold-mine regions has resulted in multi-generational chronic
to mercury, arsenic and other toxic elements for wildlife and
sites across Nova Scotia still bear the visible scars of this
mining and processing a century later.
something about this major environmental issue. There has
many excellent studies of arsenic and mercury exposure and impact in
terrestrial ecosystems and geology. However, there is a significant
knowledge gap for aquatic ecosystems of Nova Scotia, with only a few
publications and reports on this topic.
The DEEHR team is carrying out several investigations looking at
significant environmental and industrial issue for Nova Scotia, in
collaboration with Natural Resources Canada, Nova Scotia Energy
& Mines Geosciences Branch, and many others. Projects include:
- Studying the bioaccumulation and distribution of
and mercury in living organisms across the province to
assess the potential risk of gold mine tailing wastes to aquatic
- Assessing dust, air and rain samples for mercury and arsenic
from legacy gold mine tailings, including lichen collections.
- The potential of conifer dendrochronology and dendrochemistry
analyses to assess mercury and arsenic fluxes.
- Paleoecology analyses of sediment cores for impacts of tailing
- Establishing ecotoxicology testing of key species in
laboratory to examine the rate of bioaccumulation, speciation,
functionality and lethality of the toxic tailings.
- Developing a low-cost additive and capping methods to
potentially significantly reduce the risk and toxicity of toxic
mine tailings to terrestrial and aquatic biota as well as to
- Using remote sensing, LiDAR and other tools to create spatial
databases of the extent and distribution of legacy gold mine
tailings in Nova Scotia.
- Rephotography project using historical photographs to assess
changes through time since 1860's.
- Brochure about contaminated historical gold mine tailing
issues in Nova Scotia created by Peter Opra. Link to PDF
file. (Created as a part of Clean Youth Internship
- Dr. Emily Chapman's seminar on low-dose selenium
for reducing toxicity of gold mine tailing waste to earthworms.
- Molly LeBlanc's Three Minute Thesis talk "Not All
That Glitters: Assessing Environmental Effects of
Abandoned Gold Mines". Link
You-tube video. PDF
- ME LeBlanc, MB Parsons, EEV Chapman & LM Campbell. 2020.
Review of Ecological Mercury and Arsenic
Bioaccumulation within Historical Gold Mining Districts of Nova
Environmental Reviews. https://doi.org/10.1139/er-2019-0042.
Uncorrected proofs (PDF).
CBC article about the review paper. Link.
- EEV Chapman*, J Robinson*, J Berry & LM
Can a low-dose selenium (Se) additive reduce environmental risks
mercury (Hg) and arsenic (As) in old gold mine tailings? Water,
& Soil Pollution.https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-016-2909-9 Read
online for free: http://rdcu.be/mFfT.
Chapman*, C Moore & LM Campbell. 2019. Native plants for
revegetation of mercury and arsenic-contaminated historical
waste — Can a low-dose selenium additive improve seedling growth
decrease contaminant bioaccumulation? Water, Air, &
Pollution. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-019-4267-x. Read
online for free: https://rdcu.be/bP9M7.
- Molly LeBlanc. 2019. MSc Thesis. "Bioaccumulation and transfer
of mercury and arsenic in aquatic invertebrates and emergent
insects at historical gold mine tailing sites of Nova Scotia" Link
to download page.
Smith, Linda Campbell & Carrie Rickwood. 2020. Lichens as
biomonitors of dust and air quality biomonitors at a
Research Proposal Poster. Saint Mary's University.
Smith et al. 2020. Maps of sampling grids. Lichens as dust and
air-quality biomonitors at a gold mine tailings site in Nova
Canada. Figshare. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.12086205.v1.
- Gold: A Nova Scotia Treasure. Comprehensive website
- Nova Scotia Archives "Men in the Mines: A History of Mining
Activity in Nova Scotia, 1720-1992". Link.
- Nova Scotia DNR Geoscience & Mine Branch
& Data. Link.
- NovaScan Portal. Link.
- Dr. Michael Parsons et al. 2012. Environmental
of tailings, sediments and surface waters collected from 14
gold mining districts in Nova Scotia. Geological Survey of
PDF of Open File 7150 (note: large document, 326 pages).
- John Drage. 2015. NS DNR Open File. Review of Environmental
Impacts of Historic Gold Mine Tailings in Nova Scotia. ME
2015-004. PDF Link.
- Dr. Michael Parsons's Atlantic Geoscience Society presentation
on Youtube: "Gold
Mining in Nova Scotia: Learning from the Past to Improve
Future Environmental Performance". June 2020. (no
captions, auto-captions are reasonable with several errors.)
- NS DNR Gold District GIS Data from E.R. Faribault
(1898 - 1919) maps. Eastern
- What do gold mine tailings look like? (PDF file from
NS Environment). Link
- HRM Advisory for Barry's Run, Dartmouth NS & legacy gold
mine tailings from Montague. Halifax
Regional Municipality informational website.
Consultants. 2019. Halifax Regional Municipality Phase I/II
Environmental Site Assessment Port Wallace, Dartmouth, Nova
PDF file (large document over 600 pages).
- NS Government NS Lands Inc - Request for Proposals
Tender Details "FORMER
MINE SITES MONTAGUE AND GOLDENVILLE - For Closure Concepts and
Costs". Tender ID NSLAND97 (September 2018. Large
document! 873 pages.)
- Intrinsik Corp et al. 2019. Conceptual
Closure Plan for the Historic Goldenville Tailings Area.
July 24, 2019. Large document (762 pages).
- Intrinsik Corp et al. 2019. Conceptual
Closure Study for the Historic Montague Mine Tailings Areas.
July 24, 2019. Large document (745 pages).
- NS Lands & Forests and NS Lands Inc. NS mining site
clean-up priority list (as of March 11, 2020). PDF.
- Historical documents associated with keywords "nova
scotia gold" via the Internet
- Port Wallace development & Montague legacy gold mine
tailings. Halifax Examiner article by Joan Baxter. Link.
- CBC news article about Molly LeBlanc's review paper on As
& Hg bioaccumulation in biological organisms in NS. Link.
- CBC News article about the Conceptual Closure plans for
Goldenville and Montague. Link.
- 95.7 interview by Katie Hartai with Dr.
Chapman about developing an approach for remediation with local
- CBC News article about the NS Lands Inc RFP for
Montague and Goldenville and Dr. Campbell's input: Link.
- Halifax Examiner article by Joan Baxter about legacy gold mine
tailings in Nova Scotia: Link.
- CBC News article about the Public Service Announcement re:
Barry's Run, Dartmouth and legacy gold mine tailings from