By Mark Cardwell
The fall in iron ore prices has taken a big bite out of the mining industry on Quebec’s North Shore. And the impact has been felt by all stakeholders, including the Port of Sept-Îles.
In 2014, the Port registered a 14-per-cent decrease in production, with 23.8 million tonnes being handled compared to 27.7 million tonnes the previous year. The closing of Wabush Mines’ Scully mine last year, the suspension of Labrador Iron Mines’ activities, and the derailment of a train that closed the only direct rail line between the Labrador Trough and the Port of Sept-Îles were the principal causes for the drop in business. The closing of Cliffs’ Lake Bloom mine, at the end of 2014, which put some 600 people out of work, combined with continued low iron ore prices, are having a similar effect on port business.
The news, however, isn’t all bad. In fact, the Port continued to enhance its role as a regional economic stimulator.
It noted that, since the creation of the Port Authority in 1999, the Port has overseen, supported and/or managed nearly $320 million in projects that involve both private and public investments. Those projects include the construction of the new multi-user dock ($207 million), increased storage capacity for the aluminum smelter ($30 million), an expansion of La Relance terminal ($25 million), construction of the cruise terminal ($21 million), optimization of the Pointe-Noire terminal and the restoration of the dock ($22 million), and construction of a railway link ($3 million).
Those changes and improvements have facilitated continued growth in tonnage, from nearly 21 tonnes in 1999 to nearly 28 tonnes in 2012, when shipping activities were in full swing at several mines in the Labrador Trough.
In addition to the coming on line of the new multi-user dock, the Port is coming off a record cruise ship season that saw nine ships dock and some 5,700 passengers visit Sept-Îles. The Port’s local cruise industry partner, Destination Sept-Îles Nakauinanu, also continues to improve its offerings of products, activities and services for tourists.
“Supported by our partners, our goal is to offer our future visitors, as well as our business community and population, a unique experience,” reads the Port’s annual report.
Starting in 2009, when the first-ever cruise ship visited Sept-Îles, the number of ships and visitors has increased every year. “If we take a deeper look at the financials in the past 15 years,” reads the 2014 annual report, “the Port has shifted from $41.5 million in assets in 2000 to more than $366 million in 2014.”