The federal government will invest up to $55 million to modernize the port of Sept-Îles, contributing up to 25% of the estimated $220 million cost to construct a new multi-user deep-water dock equipped with two ship loaders, as well as two conveyor lines. To be located at Pointe-Noire, the dock will be built on the site of the old Gulf Pulp and Paper dock, and is scheduled to be completed within two years of receiving the necessary permits. This investment will help the port meet global shipping standards for the iron ore industry, which is the largest commodity shipped through the port to overseas markets. Port of Sept-Îles is North America’s leading iron ore port and will soon become Canada’s second largest in terms of annual volume handled, with close to 34 million tons expected in 2012.

“The new multi-user dock will have multiple important effects, as it will ensure the start-up of major new iron ore mines in Quebec and Lab­rador, the expected impacts of which will be key, with nearly 3,000 new jobs and more than $10 billion in investments. With a capacity of 50 million tons annually, the terminal will become a focus of strategic development for the Port and its users,” said Pierre D. Gagnon, President and CEO of Port of Sept-Îles, and Carol Soucy, Chairman of the port’s Board of Dir­ectors.

Over a two-year period, up to 1,000 new jobs will be created by the construction of the new dock at the port, and up to 200 new jobs will be created at Sept-Îles Port Authority to support operations at the new dock.

The Government’s contribution comes from the Gateways and Border Crossings Fund, which supports transportation infrastructure projects to develop and operate gateways, trade corridors, and border crossings. The Fund supports the objectives of the Canada–Ontario–Quebec Con­tinental Gateway initiative, which aims to develop efficient transportation networks in Ontario and Quebec for international trade. The fund is part of the Building Canada plan, which makes it possible to provide long-term, stable, and predictable financing to help meet infrastructure needs across Canada.

The announcement made on February 13 does not mean the end of the port’s expansion plans. There’s still more to come, according to Mr. Gagnon. “But we’ll do it prudently, in step with the development of the mining projects”.

And there are plenty of mining projects in northern Quebec on the drawing boards, with tens of millions of tons of additional iron ore to be shipped to overseas clients annually. Iron Ore Company of Canada is planning to expand its operations to produce about 25 million tons of iron ore annually by 2016. Cliffs Natural Re­sources plans to increase production from its flagship Bloom Lake property from 4 million tons in 2011 to 16 million tons by 2014, and 24 million tons by 2016.

Near Fermont, Champion Min­erals of Toronto plans to start mining operations in the near future, producing seven million tons a year. From the former IOC mines in Schefferville, Labrador Iron Mines Holdings and New Millennium Ore intend to mine four million tons a year each. Alderon Iron is completing a feasibility study to produce eight millions tons annually from its Kamistiatusset (Kami) mine.  From Lac Otelnuk, the largest iron ore deposit in Canada, Adriana Resources and its Chinese partner Wisco Group are developing plans to produce 50 million tons of iron ore per year.

Finally, New Millennium Ore is considering a $4 billion project to extract taconite from its LabMag (Labrador) and Kemag (Quebec) properties, south of Schefferville, shipping it to Sept-Îles through a 750-kilometre pipeline to a pellet plant to be built near the port’s facilities.

Realizing that all that additional iron ore, not to mention other minerals, will need to be transported to market, the senior management at Port of Sept-Îles is eying further expansion, well beyond the plans announced above. Initial estimates indicate that this future expansion to increase annual port capacity to about 200 million tons may well cost another $200 million.

– with files from Jean-Guy Gougeon