Special Places

Metal detecting in Nova Scotia

Is metal detecting legal in Nova Scotia?

Yes it is legal to use a metal detector for non-intrusive scanning in some areas of Nova Scotia, with landowner permission. The removal of any artifact or object of natural or heritage curiosity or interest along with making an excavation is prohibited for recreational users within provincially-designated parks and protected areas, nature reserves and wilderness areas; and in federally-designated national parks and historic sites. Many municipal parks and public greenspaces also prohibit recreational metal detecting and its associated excavation activities.  In addition, metal detecting without a heritage research permit is prohibited at all registered archaeological sites and areas of high archaeological potential province-wide.


Do I need a permit to use a metal detector?

A permit is not required for metal detecting however, if one is looking for, or collecting any material during the metal detecting activity that could be considered historical in nature a Heritage Research Permit from the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage is required. Seeking heritage objects without a Heritage Research Permit is a contravention of the Special Places Protection Act and is illegal in Nova Scotia.


I found an artifact. Can I keep it?

Any items that are collected that could be considered heritage objects or artifacts are the property of the Province of Nova Scotia. This would include older coins and other metal objects or items of other substances made for human use. If you come across an object that you think may be of heritage or historical interest please contact the Nova Scotia Museum (902) 424-7353.


How do I apply for a Heritage Research Permit?

Permits for collecting historical artifacts and archaeological investigations are issued to professional archaeologists and researchers by the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage.  


Can I search for coins?

If you are looking for old coins, or metal detecting in a place where one could reasonably assume that old coins might be found then this would be a contravention of the Special Places Protection Act. All artifacts in situ (coins included) are the property of the province of Nova Scotia. Additionally, any digging or removal of items would disturb the context of archaeological sites. Because coins can be dated accurately they can be very important clues to the age of a particular archaeological site such as an old homestead or shipwreck. If artifacts are removed then in addition to being illegal, we lose the context information that is so important to interpreting a site.


What archaeological sites are protected in Nova Scotia?

In Nova Scotia all archaeological sites (both known and unknown) are protected from disturbance by the Special Places Protection Act. We currently have about 1800 registered archaeological sites in the province. That database is not available to the public due to the sensitivity of many of the sites and issues with site looting that would be exacerbated by making the information widely available outside of the professional archaeology / research community.


What do I do if I find something that I think may be an artifact?

We recognize that artifacts may be encountered accidentally during every day activities (e.g. gardening, hiking, beach walking etc.).  If you come across an object that you think may be of heritage or historical interest please contact the Nova Scotia Museum (902) 424-7353. Our interest is in increasing awareness of the sensitive nature of archaeological resources in Nova Scotia and making people aware of the regulatory framework that governs their protection. There have been many instances of finds that have been made by ordinary citizens that make their way in to the museum that have the potential to enrich our shared understanding of Nova Scotia's heritage resources.


Contact Information 

Special Places Protection
1747 Brunswick St, 3rd Floor
Halifax, NS B3H 3A6