Canadian Mining Journal


Exploration and mining highlights in Nova Scotia

When it comes to mineral resources, Nova Scotia offers tremendous opportunity. The province boasts competitive advantages over many jurisdictions, including diverse geology and a strategic location along the eastern seaboard of North America,...

When it comes to mineral resources, Nova Scotia offers tremendous opportunity. The province boasts competitive advantages over many jurisdictions, including diverse geology and a strategic location along the eastern seaboard of North America, with deep-water ice-free ports, well-established infrastructure, and an educated, skilled workforce.

Its One Window regulatory process provides clarity and timely service to mining companies doing business in the province. This includes a streamlined environmental assessment process and success with Aboriginal consultation.

The Government of Nova Scotia implemented a Mineral Incentive Program in 2012 to assist prospectors and exploration companies in the search for new discoveries and to advance projects closer to production. To further support exploration and the province’s commitment to the mineral industry, the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources has implemented an on-line Mineral and Petroleum Rights Registry System. The modern registry provides global access to a secure, map-based system for acquiring mineral and petroleum rights in Nova Scotia.

Prices for gold, base metals and rare earth minerals resulted in renewed interest by prospectors and exploration companies in Nova Scotia. Mineral claim staking levels at the start of 2014 were up six per cent compared to mid-2013 levels.  Currently 7.7 per cent of Nova Scotia’s land mass is held under mineral exploration license.


Nova Scotia hosts more than 60 historical gold districts. Healthy gold prices bode well for companies exploring in the province’s many gold camps.

In Nova Scotia there are 10 advanced gold properties, nine of which have NI 43-101 compliant resources. The inventory of gold in Nova Scotia, from existing resource estimates, totals 1,808,200 ounces in the measured and indicated categories, and 2,496,900 ounces in the inferred category.

Ressources Appalaches invested $10 million to re-open the former producing underground Dufferin Gold Mine.

In 2013 the company started dewatering pre-existing underground workings in order to carry out detailed underground mapping and sampling. Phase II included surface and underground drilling, test mining, metallurgical testing and refurbishment of the existing mill facility.

The company poured its first gold bar last month. Phase III will include completion of the NI 43-101 resource estimate, an economic analysis and estimate of mineral reserves. At full production capacity the company expects to process 300 tonnes per day and produce between 20,000 and 25,000 ounces of gold per year.

Atlantic Gold NL continues to advance mining plans for its project at Moose River Gold Mines.  The Touquoy deposit is a low-grade bulk-tonnage gold deposit with a National Instrument (NI) 43-101 compliant resource of 534,000 ounces of gold in the measured and indicated categories, and 122,000 ounces of gold in the inferred category.

The company continues exploration to expand the resource at Touquoy, and to work on its Cochrane Hill deposit, which holds a resource of 200,000 ounces of gold (indicated) and 347,000 ounces of gold (inferred). The project is fully permitted and the company anticipates construction to start at the Touquoy project in 2014.

Advancement of exploration programs on gold properties in Nova Scotia is continuing by exploration companies including NS Gold (Mooseland), Goldworx (Goldenville), Flex Mining (Tangier and Forest Hills), Orex Exploration (Goldboro), Stay Gold (Harrigan Cove), Canuc Resources (Mill Village) and Acadian Mining (Fifteen Mile Stream and Beaver Dam).

Rare Earth Elements (REE)

Nova Scotia has exploration potential for rare earth elements (REE) and rare metal deposits. The existence of anomalous occurrences of REE in Devono-Carboniferous, Th-rich, peralkaline granite intrusions, and in an overlying suite of felsic and mafic volcanic rocks, was first discovered in northern Nova Scotia in the 1970s. More recent exploration focused on these rocks has revealed numerous new REE occurrences.

To date, exploration has returned promising results, including several surface exposures with REE concentrations >1 per cent total REE, and having enrichment of heavy REE. In addition, a current mapping project by the DNR has determined that the potential for REE deposits in this composite plutonic/volcanic sequence extends beyond the location of original discovery into other areas underlain by these rocks in the Cobequid Mountains.

Rare Metals

Deposits of rare metals (Li, Ta, Nb, Be, F, Rb, Cs), along with deposits of Sn, W, Zn, Cu, Ag and In, are associated with the Devono-Carboniferous peraluminous granitic rocks of southern and eastern mainland Nova Scotia. In addition to the 56Mt East Kemptville Sn-Zn-Cu-Ag deposit, which was mined by Rio Algom between 1985 and 1991, there are numerous other prospects and occurrences in the granites and contiguous metasedimentry rocks that have received varying degrees of exploration.

Currently, the East Kemptville deposit and several sites along its contact zone are undergoing evaluation for rare metals by Avalon Rare Metals. Rare metals are also being sought in the Brazil Lake/Deerfield area of Yarmouth County.

Base Metals

Golden Share Mining (recently merged with Silvore Fox Minerals Corp.) will continue to further evaluate the base- and precious-metal potential of Precambrian volcanic rocks in the Coxheath Hills area of Cape Breton Island.

Detailed mapping, airborne survey programs and drilling have confirmed a 600m-long volcanic belt enriched in copper-molybdenum, surrounded by a copper-gold zone, to a depth of 300m. The property has potential for a low-grade high-tonnage copper-gold deposit and a high-grade molybdenum porphyry deposit.

Merrex Gold continues to pursue its 100 per cent-owned Jubilee lead-zinc-barite deposit, also located in Cape Breton Island. Jubilee hosts an independent NI 43-101 compliant resource estimated at 3.1 million tonnes grading 4.71% zinc (inferred).

The ScoZinc lead-zinc mine in Gays River has Environmental Assessment and Industrial’ approvals for a mine expansion. ScoZinc has undertaken approximately $10 million of expenditures on the property between 2011 and 2013 including mine refurbishment, purchase of surface rights, permitting and engineering and exploration.

Southeast Cape Breton Island is home to a cluster of granite-hosted Cu-Pb-Zn-Ag-Au deposits. These deposits are known as the French Road or Oceanview deposits; they have characteristics indicative of the intrusion-related gold deposit type, or more recently named, thermal aureole gold (TAG) deposits.

There are examples of these interesting deposits in the Oceanview area that have only ever undergone sporadic exploration. Never has there been a systematic, modern exploration of this interesting terrain in Nova Scotia.

IOCG Deposits

Several companies are working on joint ventures exploring the regional-scale Cobequid-Chedabucto Fault Zone for Iron Oxide-Copper-Gold (IOCG) deposits. Minotaur Exploration previously explored the area with an extensive ground-run gravity survey and verified that there is potential for this mineral deposit type in Nova Scotia.

The company has delineated more than 10 drill-ready targets. In the fall of 2012, with funds from the Nova Scotia Mineral Incentive Program, Minotaur completed a detailed IP survey and a deep drillhole on one of their high-priority targets and reported promising results.


The mineral industry in Nova Scotia is dominated by the production of industrial minerals and structural materials. The province produces gypsum, anhydrite, salt, coal, aggregate, limestone, silica sand, quartz, dimension stone (marble, slate, sandstone, granite) and peat.

Production of commodities such as coal, salt, anhydrite, limestone and silica sand have remained relatively consistent in recent years. Construction aggregates produced from crushed rock and sand and gravel deposits represent one-third of the value of all minerals produced in the province, overtaking gypsum as the highest value commodity.

There are 10 active mining operations in Nova Scotia.


Aggregates used in the construction industry are the leading mineral produced in Nova Scotia. Provincial aggregate operations produce approximately 9 million tonnes per year for domestic consumption and approximately 4 million tonnes per year for export. Building stone is produced from several locations in Nova Scotia.


Gypsum mining was one of Nova Scotia’s most consistent industries for more than 100 years. The province produced approximately 80 per cent of the total Canadian gypsum production, and six per cent of world gypsum production.

Nova Scotia is known for the quality and size of its gypsum deposits, as well as access to economical ocean cargo transport.

The recent crisis in the U.S. housing market has had a direct impact on the Nova Scotia gypsum industry, since the majority of production is exported to the U.S. for wallboard manufacturing. Production levels have declined by 75 per cent compared to 2006 levels. Many of the gypsum mines in Nova Scotia have either shut down or been placed on care and maintenance indefinitely.


Salt production is thriving in Nova Scotia. Salt is currently produced from an underground mine in Pugwash and a solution mining operation at Nappan. Production averages approximately 1.2 million tonnes per year of rock salt. Most of the salt is used for de-icing, but 175,000 tonnes are processed annually into food-grade products, including table salt. 


Nova Scotia has deposits of coal, which have been used to generate electricity and make steel for more than 100 years.

Coal production levels dropped significantly a decade ago following closure of the federally owned Devco mines. Coal generates approximately 60 per cent of Nova Scotia’s electricity and is expected to be the primary fuel source for electrical power generation in the province for the foreseeable future. There is continued interest in developing future underground resources in the province at Donkin, Cape Breton County.

The Donkin coal project in Cape Breton received an environmental assessment by the federal and provincial regulators in 2013. Xstrata is actively seeking a buyer for their 75 per cent ownership in the project.

Recent coal production has occurred at several surface ‘reclamation mining’ projects where previously mined deposits are being ‘re-mined’ and the impacted lands reclaimed to modern environmental standards. This accounts for more than 500,000 tonnes of current coal production in the province. Emerging clean-coal technologies, such as underground coal gasification, may provide future opportunities to generate electricity using Nova Scotia coal.

*Diane Webber, P.Geo., is a Liaison Geologist with the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources 

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