Unprecedented wildfires have disrupted operations in Canada’s major mining hub, Quebec. Mining companies have temporarily curtailed exploration and production as the fires continue.
As of Monday, more than 400 wildfires were burning across Canada, with 160 in Quebec, most of them out of control. The unusually dry spring causing early wildfires has burned 3.3 million hectares of land and affected more than 100,000 people under evacuation orders.
Canada’s Iron Ore, majorly owned by Rio Tinto, idled operations at its facility in Newfoundland. It could not ship products as telecommunication infrastructure and power lines remain affected. Hecla Mining in the Northern Abitibi region of Quebec had to halt its gold mining operations following emergency orders from the government to prohibit access to land near the fires.
Firefighters, along with the Canadian army, are grappling with the situation as Quebec seeks international support. Quebec’s Premier François Legault told reporters on 5 June that the province can currently only fight around 30 fires.
“When I talk to the premiers of other provinces, they have their hands full,” Legault told the reporters on Monday.
Heavy smoke has forced mining company Eldorado Gold to suspend its underground operations in the Lamaque gold mine. Among the hardest hit are the explorers who had to evacuate their crew and shut the field operations. Canada-based Osisko Mining had to evacuate its exploration camp at Windfall Lake. Vancouver’s Archer Exploration company, which mines nickel and copper in the James Bay area, also suspended its activities and evacuated workers.
Quebec’s wildfire prevention agency, Societe De Protection Des Forets, recorded more than 173,000 hectares of land as having burned this year compared with a ten-year average of 247 hectares during the same time in previous years.
The mining companies are evaluating the risks but do not report any critical impact on infrastructure yet. Earlier in May, oil and gas producers were hit by wildfires in Alberta, affecting Canada’s gas exports to the US.