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Iamgold Corp. has suspended mining at its Westwood gold mine in Quebec after yet another earthquake hit the site on the weekend, the latest in a long list of seismic events over the past few years to affect both production and reserves.

On Monday, the Toronto-based gold company said in a statement that an earthquake occurred at the underground mine around 2:30 p.m. on Friday. All underground employees were safely brought to the surface but Iamgold did not specify how long the process took.

Natural Resources Canada said the quake measured 3.8 on the Richter scale, and was “lightly felt” by residents of Preissac, Que., in the Abitibi region.

Citing local press reports, Josh Wolfson, an analyst with RBC Dominion Securities Inc., wrote in a note to clients on Monday that the earthquake at Westwood trapped one mineworker underground for more than a day.

The Globe and Mail contacted Iamgold by phone and e-mail on Monday for comment, but did not receive a reply.

In the statement, Iamgold said it is working on a recovery plan for Westwood and will provide more details after the release of its third-quarter financial results on Wednesday.

Located roughly 80 kilometres west of Val-d’Or in southwestern Quebec, Westwood is the smallest of the Iamgold’s three major mines, producing 91,000 ounces of gold last year. Iamgold has bigger operations in Burkina Faso in West Africa and Suriname in South America.

Earlier this year, Iamgold cut its proven and probable reserves – the amount of gold it can safely and economically extract at Westwood – by 48 per cent because of continuing seismic activity.

“Seismic activity is a key ongoing challenge for the Westwood mine, representing a health and safety risk for employees and impacting the ability for the mine in achieving its operating targets,” Mr. Wolfson wrote.

Westwood went into commercial production in 2014. On two separate occasions in 2015, rock bursts caused by earthquakes temporarily trapped a total of 12 miners underground. Two years later, another quake injured three employees. Westwood experienced seismic activity again in 2018.

As of the end of 2019, 568 employees and 128 contractors worked at Westwood. When and whether the mine will be allowed to reopen will be up to safety officials at the government of Quebec. John Tumazos, an analyst with Very Independent Research in New Jersey, said that the province has a sterling reputation when it comes to safety.

“They have strong standards and they have no hesitancy to enforce them,” Mr. Tumazos said. “Quebec is a pro-mine province, but safety is a bigger issue than jobs."

Shares in Iamgold rose by 0.4 per cent to close at $4.90 apiece on Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Despite the obvious risks, mining companies operate in earthquake-prone zones because they often house large mineral reserves.

“In many cases, the largest ore bodies in the world are at the intersection of the two biggest faults on the continent,” Mr. Tumazos said. “The faults are the places where the plate tectonics are moving. The bigger the fault, the bigger the plate collision, the better the plumbing for mineralized fluids to rise up from the centre of the earth.”

Grasberg, the world’s biggest gold mine, owned by Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoRan Inc., is located in an extremely earthquake-prone region of Indonesia. And apart from Iamgold, Toronto-based miners Kirkland Lake Gold Ltd. and Agnico Eagle Gold Ltd. operate gold mines in regions of Ontario and Quebec that have frequent seismic activity. At Agnico’s La Ronde mine in the Abitibi region of Quebec, where it extracts gold at depths of more than three kilometres, the company has adjusted its plans on a number of occasions because of seismic activity.

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