A Vancouver-based gold exploration company plans to drill at two historical mining sites in Nova Scotia this summer.
Osprey Gold Development will drill in the Goldenville area near Sherbrooke, and in the Caribou Mines area near Upper Musquodoboit.
Company president Cooper Quinn said the existence of historical mining operations at the sites, as well as the success of the currently operating Touquoy Gold Mine, make him confident the results of the exploratory work will be positive.
“The best place to look for gold is where there’s gold, and we know that’s in Nova Scotia,” said Quinn.
The Goldenville site is located about three kilometres south of Sherbrooke, and the other site is about 10 kilometres south of Upper Musquodoboit and 10 kilometres north of the existing Touquoy Gold Mine.
Australian company St Barbara is currently negotiating with Touquoy mine owner Atlantic Gold to purchase that company.
While Osprey has drilled at both sites in the past, where gold is known to have existed, the new drilling program will be aimed at nearby sites that are less certain bets.
Both areas were mined sporadically, but at times heavily, from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s. Quinn said those operations “never fully realized their potential.”
“Most of them closed down in and around 1942, generally. That wasn’t because the gold resources were depleted and there was nothing left there. That was because in 1942, young men and women had other things on their mind other than mining gold,” he said, alluding to the Second World War.
Many historical mining sites were left contaminated by chemicals such as mercury, arsenic and cyanide, which were used to separate the gold from the ore.
“Back then, it was a pretty dirty thing and there wasn’t a lot of care given to the environment,” Quinn said.
But he said modern mining methods are safer for the environment.
“It’s a very far cry from your grandfather’s mining industry. It’s on us as the mining and exploration industry to prove that we’re better than we used to be.”
Quinn said during drilling operations, the company will try not to disturb any historical tailings — the material left over after gold is extracted from ore — that may be contaminated.
Still, residents, academics and government staff have raised concerns about the potential environmental impacts of both historical and proposed gold mines in the province.
The province has been experiencing a gold rush of sorts in recent years. In addition to the operational Touquoy mine, which opened last year, there are four other gold mines in various stages of the environmental approval process.
Quinn said if the exploration work does eventually lead to the opening of a mine, gold production would still be at least five years away.
“Somewhere in the neighbourhood of one in every 1,000 exploration projects become a mine at some point in their lifetime,” he said. “So, the odds are stacked against us.”
It’s not a certainty that Osprey would be the company that owns or operates a potential mine. So far, the company has focused on simply looking for gold, not producing it.
Quinn said it is estimated that the company’s Goldenville claim contains about 447,000 ounces of gold, while the Caribou site is believed to contain 96,000 ounces.