Located in Western Labrador near the Quebec border is the town of Labrador City, the iron ore capital of Canada. Neighboured by the town of Wabush, together these two towns are known as Labrador West. The summer months provide residents and visitors with world class hunting, fishing, canoeing and other ecotourism adventures, while the winter months boasts great snowmobiling and alpine skiing.
Land Area, km2
Mining Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction
Happy Valley, Goose Bay
The area has been mono-industry driven since the formation of the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) in 1949 and the Wabush Mines in 1957. But with most businesses in the area derived from the mining industry, it has proven difficult for the town to diversify its income-generation. And with Wabush Mines closing its door and laying off 500 people in 2013, solely relying on mining is no longer a viable option.
There is also a lack of affordable housing and development in the area, as the majority of land is owned by the mine and a few individuals. As well, Labrador City has relied heavily on migrant workers to fill available mining or service industry positions – giving the town a reputation of being a ‘fly in fly out’ (FIFO) hub. Like many smaller regions, Labrador City struggles with population decline. Many of the town’s youth leave for post-secondary education and don’t return. Nevertheless, Labrador City is primarily a residential town and very much a family-oriented community.
Despite IOC’s policy to hire locally and its success in doing so before hiring FIFOs, there are still an important number of migrant workers coming in and finding it difficult to take root in the community for reasons to do with lack of affordable housing and high cost of living. The town struggles with lack of staffing for critical amenities such as daycares, clinics and training programs. This situation persists even though many immigrant workers such as members of the Filipino community come in to work in the service industry because they are willing to take lower paying jobs and live in tight housing situations in order to eventually get their permanent residency and move on to better working and living conditions. The French community has also been getting lost in the shuffle – it is getting increasingly hard to get services in French and French-speaking resources, despite there being a time when the majority of the town was mainly French speaking.
The town’s economy is slow at the moment – a perpetuating cycle, dependent on the price of iron on the market. Labrador City is looking to its people to volunteer where needed, in places such as the visitor centre, which sees about 800-1000 people come and go in the summer months. Luckily, Labrador City’s strength is its people – there is great community solidarity, but as of late it has become increasingly difficult to get the volunteers that are needed. This volunteerism is dependent on services such as affordable daycare and public transportation to help support its activity – but is lacking in the area.
Labrador City does carry a lot of economic development potential. The town is currently investigating opportunities in different sectors, such as the environment and waste management. With low electricity rates, the wealth of natural resources in the area, as well as the close proximity to both Newfoundland and Quebec, Labrador City is an ideal location for new development. Alderon Iron Ore Corp, a development company, is hoping to set up in the area for a new project, with plans to hire up to 350 people by 2015. The town also has the opportunity to capitalize on their ties to the mining industry – there is also a great potential to develop an excellence centre for mining competencies. This would help train local townspeople in the industry for potential jobs in the area, which would in turn create more of a concrete community in the area.
Read about the Francophone history of Newfoundland and Labrador here.