The latest provincial government-mandated restrictions to address the COVID-19 situation have seen miners down tools at operations in Quebec, Canada.
Announced on March 23, the order was for the shutdown of all non-essential businesses and services for a period of three weeks, starting on midnight on March 24.
While mining was listed as one of the priority services, those in the mining sector have been instructed to minimise activities.
Yamana Gold, which along with Agnico Gold Mines’ jointly owns the Canadian Malartic mine (pictured), said it would ramp down operations at the mine following discussions with representatives of the Government of Quebec to “obtain additional clarity in regard to the order”.
The operation, Canada’s largest gold mine, will be on care and maintenance and minimal work will be taking place until the date specified in the order (April 13), it said.
Yamana said it was demobilising employees and contractors in a safe and orderly manner, leaving only a small number of employees on site to maintain property and equipment and oversee all environmental responsibilities and obligations.
“A return to full capacity at Canadian Malartic is expected to occur in an expedited manner as soon as the temporary restriction is lifted,” it said.
Yamana’s partner, Agnico Eagle Mines, also announced its LaRonde Complex and Goldex Mine, in the Abitibi region of Quebec, would be ramped down in an orderly fashion while ensuring the safety of employees and the sustainability of the infrastructure.
“Each of these operations are to be placed on care and maintenance until April 13, 2020, and, as instructed, minimal work will take place during that time,” the company said.
With its Meliadine and Meadowbank mining operations in Nunavut being serviced out of Quebec, it said it will also slow activities there.
Eldorado Gold, meanwhile, has temporarily minimised operations at its Lamaque underground mine until April 13.
As of today, it will ramp down operational activity and maintain only essential personnel on site responsible for maintaining appropriate health, safety, security and environmental systems, it said.
“The company remains committed to resuming operations in a timely manner once the suspension is lifted,” Eldorado Gold added.
The news came on the same day it announced the receipt of a Certificate of Authorization from the Quebec Ministry of Environment to allow for the expansion of underground production from the Triangle deposit at Lamaque from 1,800 t/d to 2,650 t/d, once operations resume. This expansion could see annual average gold production rise to 170,000 oz, from close to 130,000 oz.
Hecla Mining has also slowed operations at its Casa Beradi gold mine in the province, with the company saying it will have limited operations in place to protect the facilities and environment while the suspension is ongoing.
Rio Tinto, which operates aluminium operations in the province, said it was working with the government to comply with its directive.
“Rio Tinto understands that the Quebec government has designated industrial complexes including the aluminium sector and the mining industry as essential industries but instructed that they must reduce their business activity to the minimum,” it said.
Over the border in Ontario, there has been a more mixed response to the COVID-19 situation, led by the provincial government taking a different tack to politicians in Quebec.
Some mines, such as Kirkland Lake Gold’s Detour Lake operation and Wesdome Gold Mines‘ Eagle River complex, have reduced the amount of workers on site, whereas others like Newmont (at Musselwhite) have put operations into care and maintenance mode.
Ontario’s government has issued a similar notice to its neighbour about non-essential businesses, but its definition is different.
Businesses that ensure global continuity of supply of mining materials and products, including metals such as copper, nickel and gold, and that support supply chains in northern Ontario including mining operations, production and processing; mineral exploration and development; and mining supply and services that support supply chains in the mining industry including maintenance of operations, health and safety, are all considered ‘essential’.
This extends beyond mining companies, too, with Maestro Digital Mine one of the recent Ontario-based suppliers to confirm it was “deemed an essential service”. It said it would continue to provide support to the underground mining sector, “keeping miners safe with gas sensors and airflow sensors” during this time.