Unprecedented wildfires fueled by an exceptionally dry spring in 2023 have caused major disruptions to mining operations in Canada. As these wildfires continue to ravage the land, mining companies in Quebec and other northern regions have been compelled to temporarily halt their exploration and production activities.
Several mining companies have been directly affected by the raging wildfires. Canada’s Iron Ore, majority-owned by Rio Tinto, had to idle its Newfoundland facility due to the destruction of telecommunication infrastructure and power lines. Hecla Mining, operating in Quebec’s Northern Abitibi region, was forced to halt its gold mining operations following emergency orders from the government. Eldorado Gold’s Lamaque mine also suspended underground mining due to heavy smoke caused by the wildfires. Other companies, including Osisko Mining, Archer Exploration, Québec Nickel, Troilus Gold, Q2 Metals, and Wallbridge Mining, have likewise suspended activities and evacuated their mine workers from affected areas.
The scale of the wildfires has posed significant challenges to firefighting efforts. Quebec has sought international support, as its resources are stretched thin. With over 160 wildfires currently out of control in the province, Premier François Legault stated that they can only combat approximately 30 fires at present. The Canadian army, in collaboration with firefighters, is working tirelessly to bring the situation under control. However, the severity and widespread nature of the wildfires have put a strain on resources, with other provinces also grappling with their own firefighting challenges.
The Société de protection des forêts, Quebec’s wildfire prevention agency, reported that this year’s wildfires have already burned over 173,000 hectares of land, surpassing the ten-year average for the same period. While mining companies are evaluating the risks, no critical infrastructure impacts have been reported thus far. Notably, in May, wildfires in Alberta affected oil and gas producers, leading to disruptions in gas exports to the United States.