2011 will be a year of celebration as Labrador City marks its 50th anniversary–the city that has been forged out of the earth, with the community being built out of and around the iron ore mining industry.
Populated by people drawn initially for work in mining but who have stayed for the natural barren beauty of the land, the motto of Labrador City is Kamistiatusset, which translates from the Naskapi language to “Land of the Hard-Working People.” The motto encapsulates the sentiment of the 9,000 citizens whose livelihoods are centred closely on the iron ore industry and the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC).
Mayor Janice Barnes, a council committee and volunteers are preparing for the anniversary celebrations now. Barnes has been a resident of Labrador City for more than 30 years and has always had a passion for community development. She is currently employed with the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development as the Economic Development Officer. Volunteering is the backbone of the community, and in the spirit of giving back, she volunteers with a number of not-for-profit organizations.
“We have a number of ideas like incorporating seniors and pioneers that were instrumental in the building of this community,” says Barnes.
It’s exciting to project what the 50th anniversary of Labrador City will be like. For a city with so much history to celebrate, its present day and future are equally vibrant. As the iron ore capital of Canada, IOC is in the midst of a major expansion to their operations. “It’s in the neighbourhood of a $500 million expansion for phase one. That has a lot of potential for a lot of good things for our community, in terms of employment, as a supplier, for benefits, that kind of thing,” says Barnes.
And in 2008, the IOC (and parent company Rio Tinto) announced an $800 million investment in the expansion of its operations in Labrador City. The IOC is Canada’s largest iron ore producer and a leading global supplier of iron ore pellets and concentrates. IOC is a key employer in the communities in which it operates, employing almost 1900 people in the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec. The IOC current project in Labrador City is known as the Carol Project, and has been in operation since 1962 and is still a significant resource base. The town and IOC mutually celebrated the one-billionth tonne of ore mined.
Projects like these are attracting more people to Labrador City, and presently more housing is being made to accommodate the town’s growing numbers, due primarily to “a spike in the construction and contractor sector,” according to Barnes.
To accommodate the surge in industry, the city is incorporating a strong focus on serving the industries associated with mining work. Barnes says that almost everything in the town is influenced somehow by the mining done in the community. “Everything revolves around [mining]. When the mining company does well, so too does the community,” says Barnes.
“We’re finding with the boom, and we’re very happy about that, there are some challenges that go with that type of prosperity. The first is that those who were living marginally before are now certainly finding themselves in a very tight position, particularly given the fact that in this province the rents have gone up. People on fixed incomes have gotten themselves into a compromised position. That’s certainly one thing that as a municipality we are supporting and working with the provincial government and industry to try and address the housing needs.”
If it is the work that is drawing more people to Labrador City, they stay for the unspoiled eminence of the environment and the unexpected ease and convenience of living. “We are a very modern, well designed community. There are a lot of amenities and services available to residents to here that you typically don’t find in a small community of this size. We have very good recreational facilities. We have downhill ski facilities, an excellent cross country ski trail system, which has held World Cup races, everything from snowmobiling, to a great arena, a curling club, an 18-hole golf course—things that you wouldn’t normally expect to find in a northern community with a population of our size.”
The city is also now seeing visitors coming from “further and further away.” The completion of the Trans-Labrador Highway has meant great political and economic benefits.
The highway now runs from the Quebec border in southern Labrador to the border west of Labrador City, making it so that people are coming to the city in greater numbers and with greater ease, spurring on an industry which will no doubt experience rapid growth—adventure tourism. “Now we are starting to see adventure tourism becoming a big thing here, where you can actually drive to Labrador from Quebec, to the island portion of the province, when you couldn’t do that before.”
Congratulations to the Labrador City on their 50th anniversary. In only a few decades, the city has grown to a reknowned location in the minerals world, and will continue to garner respect domestically and internationally.