Abstract

The economy of northern Ontario, Canada, is heavily dependent on mining, so accurate knowledge of seismicity is important for the safe design and operation of mines and other critical facilities, including a proposed underground repository for nuclear waste. In this study, we analyzed 537 cataloged earthquakes that occurred from 1980 to 2006. Seismicity is mainly concentrated in topographically elevated Archean terranes northwest of Lake Superior and in the James Bay and Kapuskasing regions. We analyzed waveforms to determine the focal depth for 331 recorded events, using the regional depth-phase modeling (RDPM) method coupled with surface-wave relative-amplitude analysis. The majority of events are shallow (<6 km) and concentrated in areas of relatively high elevation (>350 m), although in the eastern part this pattern breaks down and some deeper earthquakes (>12 km) are observed. Based on a moving-window event-counting technique, we show that distinct spatial clusters of seismicity can be delineated that are statistically significant relative to background seismicity levels. A particularly active cluster is located within James Bay, where focal depths range from a few kilometers to more than 20 km. Another cluster near Kapuskasing contains deep-focus events and may occur along a hot spot track that runs through western Quebec. Near Dryden, a shallow (∼1 km) earthquake swarm concentrated in a 1×1 km region commenced in May 2002, faded, and then started up again in February 2003. Shallow mining-induced events are also common around Sudbury, a major world center for nickel mining. The overall pattern of seismicity appears to correlate with upper-mantle P-wave velocity anomalies, suggesting that lateral variations in mantle rheology may play a significant role in controlling intraplate seismicity of shield areas. It is also likely that crustal stresses caused by glacial isostatic adjustment are an important factor, although the correlation of seismicity with uplift rate is not as clear.

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