4.1 magnitude earthquake shakes Esterhazy and area

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WATCH: A 4.1 magnitude earthquake rumbled near the Esterhazy potash mine, but the mine likely did not contribute to the earthquake. David Baxter reports – Aug 16, 2019

A small earthquake struck just east of Esterhazy Thursday evening.

The United States Geological Survey confirms a 4.1 magnitude quake hit the region 17 kilometres east of the town at 8:30 p.m., at a depth of five kilometres.

The epicenter of the quake was located just outside of Mosaic’s K2 Potash mine.

A representative from the company said there were about 120 employees underground at the time of the tremor, spread across three sites.

No one had to go into refuge sites at the mine. Employees met at a muster point to be accounted for and there were no injuries. The miners returned to work once power was restored to the area.

According to miners at the scene, the tremors only lasted about five seconds.

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Mining can contribute to seismic activity, but University of Saskatchewan geological science department head Samuel Butler doesn’t think the mine contributed to this quake. He said five kilometres would be too deep for mining to be a factor.

“It’s actually down in what’s called the basement below the salt. There probably is an ancient fault – not very active – but every now and then you’ll get a small earthquake on it,” Butler explained.

READ MORE: 3.8 magnitude earthquake hits southeast of Yorkton, Sask.

Earthquakes are uncommon in Saskatchewan, but small ones can happen. In the Esterhazy area, Butler said mining and underground salt deposits are the biggest contributors.

“Salt is very soluble in water, so if water flows through it, the salt can dissolve and cause a cavern, which can also collapse and that can be an earthquake,” he said.

SaskPower reports several communities in the area including Esterhazy, Whitewood, Moosomin, Rockanville Wapella and Tantallon experienced power outages, but power was restored a few hours later.

SaskPower has since confirmed the quake caused the blackout. Safety mechanisms turned off three transformers at the Tantallon, Sask. switching station. The Crown corporation says there is no permanent damage to equipment.

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For some, losing power was the only thing they experienced during the tremor. This was the case for Keith Dunster and his staff at Esterhazy Family Foods.

“We were just closing up and the lights, obviously the power went out, but I didn’t know until almost an hour later that there was any kind of a shake-up. None of us at the store here felt a darn thing,” Dunster said.

Dunster added that he’s lived in Esterhazy since 1998, and despite hearing about several earthquakes in the past 21 years he still hasn’t felt one.

With files from Global News’ Bryan Lentz and Colton Praill.

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