Biological effects of gold mine tailings on the intertidal marine environment in Nova Scotia, Canada

K. Doe, R. Mroz, K. L. Tay, J. Burley, Swee J Teh, S. Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


From 1861 to the 1940s, gold was produced from 64 mining districts in Nova Scotia, where mercury amalgamation was the dominant method for the extraction of gold from ore until the 1880s. As a result, wastes (tailings) from the milling process were contaminated by mercury and were high in naturally occurring arsenic. In 2004 and 2005, sediments, water and mollusc tissues were collected from 29 sampling stations at nine former gold mining areas along the Atlantic coastline and were analysed for arsenic and mercury. The resulting data were compared with environmental quality guidelines. Samples indicated high potential risk of adverse effects in the intertidal environments of Seal Harbour, Wine Harbour and Harrigan Cove. Arsenic in Seal Harbour was bioavailable, resulting in high concentrations of arsenic in soft-shell clam tissues. Mercury concentrations in tissues were below guidelines. This paper presents results of the sampling programs and implications of these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-76
Number of pages13
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 15 2017


  • Arsenic
  • Bioaccumulation
  • Biological effects
  • Gold mine tailings
  • Mercury
  • Molluscs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution


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