Small earthquake shakes Faro

Faro residents felt the earth move under their feet last Tuesday when a 4.4-magnitude earthquake struck about 10 kilometres west of town. The quake was strong enough to be felt, but not strong enough to do any damage.

Faro residents felt the earth move under their feet last Tuesday when a 4.4-magnitude earthquake struck about 10 kilometres west of town.

The quake was strong enough to be felt, but not strong enough to do any damage.

Faro’s chief administrative officer, Ian Dunlop, was sitting in his office when the earthquake hit around 4:30 p.m. He said it felt like a car had struck the building.

“It only lasted for a couple of seconds and I noticed there were some things rattling in the office,” he said.

Dunlop thinks residents last felt an earthquake in Faro close to 15 years ago.

“It’s not very common here,” he said. “It caused quite a bit of excitement.”

There were no reports of damage and no calls to the fire department or the town office after the earthquake, Dunlop said.

He said officials inspected the bridge over the Pelly River that evening, and it was deemed safe by 7 p.m.

“Overall, everybody was happy with the response,” he said.

Dustin Rainey, senior project manager with the Faro mine remediation project, said a site operator inspected the facilities at the Faro abandoned mine site after the earthquake, and no damage was reported.

He said the main tailings dam has been built to withstand anything up to a 1 in 10,000-year earthquake, and it’s unlikely that a 4.4-magnitude quake would have any impact on the site.

“We are at a mine … so we definitely have to consider any sort of seismic activity,” he said.

Maurice Colpron, head of bedrock geology with the Yukon Geological Survey, said structural damage to buildings and other infrastructure can start to occur around magnitude 5. The earthquake that rocked Italy last week had a magnitude of 6.2.

Natural Resources Canada’s earthquake website shows no historical earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher around Faro, though numerous small tremors — probably too weak to be felt — have occurred in the region since 2000.

“The majority of earthquake activity would be in the southwest (Yukon), like in the Saint Elias Mountains,” Colpron said.

He said there is also some activity in the Richardson Mountains in northern Yukon.

But earthquakes along the Tintina Trench, the fault that Faro sits on, are “usually pretty small and they’re pretty rare,” he said.

Colpron said Haines Junction is the Yukon community most likely to be affected by earthquakes because of its proximity to the Denali Fault, which extends from northwestern British Columbia through southwest Yukon and into Alaska.

In 2002, the 7.9-magnitude Denali earthquake caused some damage to bridges, roads and the Trans-Alaska pipeline in Alaska, but few people were affected.

Colpron said the portion of the Denali fault that runs through Kluane Lake and Haines Junction doesn’t seem to be as active as the portion in Alaska, but a significant earthquake in the region is a possibility.

“It wouldn’t be entirely surprising if there was a five-or-more earthquake on that segment of the fault,” he said.

This week, Canadian Armed Forces personnel are conducting an earthquake simulation in Haines Junction as part of Operation Nanook, an annual military training exercise that helps the military and governments prepare to respond to emergencies in Canada’s North.

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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