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Canadian operations halted as miners grapple with record wildfires

Experts have marked the ongoing wildfire season as the most severe in Canadian history
BC Wildfire Service crews working near Penticton last summer.

Despite the outlook calling for improving weather conditions, including anticipated rainfall and cooler temperatures, the mining industry in Ontario and Quebec is grappling with a disruptive blow caused by persistent wildfires.

Record-setting wildfires have been wreaking havoc across Canada since March, reaching peak intensity this month. Experts have marked the ongoing wildfire season as the most severe in Canadian history, sparing no provinces or territories except Nunavut.

Government data sources show Quebec has borne the brunt of the 2023 wildfire onslaught, witnessing a surge in frequency and intensity compared to previous years.

The impact of these fires has extended beyond the affected regions, with thick smoke blanketing Ottawa, Toronto, and large parts of Southern Ontario from June 5 to 7. The air quality in these areas reached its highest level on Environment Canada’s Air Quality Health Index, posing a significant risk to public health.

As of June 8, Quebec alone reported an alarming count of 137 active fires, while Ontario battled 54 blazes, according to Canada’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service. According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, as of June 9, there were 422 active wildfires across Canada. So far this year there have been 2,402 wildfires burning 4.5 million hectares of land.

Here’s a rundown of how mining companies’ operations have been affected over the past week.

Hecla Mining (NYSE: HL) has suspended operations at its Casa Berardi mine in Quebec. The company said as of June 6, mining infrastructure has not been affected so far.

Osisko Mining (TSX: OSK) said on June 5 it had suspended all activities at the Windfall gold project in Quebec. However, the company does not expect any significant impact on its overall business.

Wallbridge Mining (TSX: WM) has evacuated the camp at its Fenelon gold project and suspended all exploration activities on its Detour-Fenelon Gold Trend property in Quebec. The company plans to resume exploration activities as soon as it is feasible.

Québec Nickel (CSE: QNI) has suspended all exploration activities at the Ducros project.

Troilus Gold (TSX: TLG) said on June 5 it had also suspended operations at its namesake project site in northern Quebec and withdrawn staff as a precautionary measure. There’s been no update since.

Q2 Metals (TSXV: QTWO), a Vancouver-based miner, has withdrawn its crew and equipment from its flagship Mia lithium property in the James Bay area of Quebec.

Patriot Battery Metals (TSXV: PMET) has ceased field exploration operations at its Corvette property in northern Quebec. However, the company will continue lithium processing and advance its camp construction activities as advised by the government.

Brunswick Exploration (TSXV: BRW) suspended exploration activities at its three camps in northern Quebec. The company has also halted operations in the Saskatchewan region due to the wildfires.

Champion Electric Metals (CSE: LTHM) also said on June 5 it had ceased all activities at its lithium projects in northern Quebec due to the forest fires.

Bonterra Resources (TSXV: BTR) has stopped its exploration activities in the Quebec region and safely evacuated all personnel.

Archer Exploration (CSE: RCHR) has suspended all activities at its Grasset project in the James Bay territory in Quebec.

Cosmos Exploration (ASX: C1X), an Australian company, has temporarily closed its programs and exploration activities at its Corvette Far East and Laselle lithium projects in Quebec.

The Iron Ore Company of Canada, majority-owned by Rio Tinto (LSE: RIO), has experienced transportation disruptions. The Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway will remain suspended due to fire, smoke hazards, and damage to telecommunication and power lines. Operations at its Labrador City mine have also been halted.

Wesdome Gold Mines (TSX: WDO) also suspended underground and surface exploration activities at the Kiena Mine in Quebec. Nevertheless, essential surface activities such as mill operation, shaft maintenance, and paste fill placement underground are still being carried out.

Montreal-based Mosaic Minerals (CSE: MOC) has experienced delays in all exploration activities at its James Bay lithium project.

Reuters reported that Agnico Eagle Mines (TSX: AEM) said some sites where operations were reduced between June 2 and 5 have returned to normal. However, exploration activities carried out by the Quebec regional exploration team in the impacted sector remain suspended.

Ontario and Quebec miners continue to closely monitor the wildfire situation, with the affected companies aiming to resume operations promptly once conditions improve and it is safe to do so.