Yamana Gold and Agnico Eagle's Canadian Malarctic joint venture is one of the operations set to restart following the shutdown. Courtesy of Yamana Gold.

The Quebec government told mining companies they can reopen their mines, three weeks after it instructed all non-essential businesses in the province to shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 13, Premier François Legault said that mining activities will be allowed to resume gradually, starting on April 15.

The announcement confirmed that mining would be classified as an essential activity and added to the government’s list of essential services. As reported by CTV News, the government recognized the mining sector’s production of metals used for many essential goods, such as the medical equipment needed to protect healthcare workers and combat the COVID-19 virus.

A number of new health and safety conditions that companies must meet in order to resume operations were introduced. Companies operating remote mine sites will have to use chartered buses and planes to transport workers in order to minimize contact with nearby communities, and to reduce fly-in and fly-out travel. They are also being encouraged to hire more local workers. Miners will be required to wear protective equipment such as gloves and glasses. Perhaps the biggest change is that employees’ work-site time will be doubled from 14 to 28 days in order to minimize travel.

Several mining companies will be complying with the new conditions, said Jonatan Julien Quebec’s minister of energy and natural resources, as he spoke on the decision to resume industry activities. “The health of Quebecers has been the Quebec government's priority since the start of this crisis and it continues to be,” he said. “The mining industry, firmly established in regions of the North Shore, Abitibi-Temiscamingue, Nord-du-Quebec, and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, has worked to secure these work sites in an optimal way.”

Related: Mining companies impacted as Quebec and Ontario announce the closure of all non-essential services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

In addition to these conditions, mining companies will be implementing additional measures to comply with public health standards and social distancing measures set by the Department of Public Health and the Committee on Standards, Equity, and Occupational Safety (CNESST). These measures include temperature screening of people entering mines, increased sanitizing and disinfecting at the work site, use of personal protective equipment and preparing a plan in case of a COVID-19 case.

Some of the companies that will be reopening their mines include El Dorado Gold, which will ramp up activities at its Lamaque mine. Yamana Gold announced it would be restarting operations at its jointly owned (with Agnico Eagle) Canadian Malartic mine on April 15. Iamgold announced it will be restarting operations at its Westwood mine, which has been in care and maintenance since Mar. 23, along with undertaking additional safety measures such as training employees and adjusting work schedules. The company said that all non-essential and corporate employees would continue to work from home. Agnico Eagle similarly announced it would be resuming its operations in Quebec’s Abitibi region, including the LaRonde complex, the Goldex mine and the aforementioned Canadian Malartic mine.