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Sept-Îles is booming, and the numbers are there to prove it. The mining community of 30,000 on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, some 960 kilometres from Montreal, added 5,200 new jobs last year, for an impressive 10.7% increase in employment, the best in Quebec. Based on its population, the 5,200 new jobs is equivalent to Montreal adding 105,000 new jobs, where only 30,000 were created last year.
A lot of the credit for this growth goes to Serge Lévesque, Sept-Îles mayor since November 2009. He knows the region lives or dies on the fortunes of the mining industry, having worked for both the Iron Ore Co. of Canada and Aluminerie Alouette Inc., a global aluminum industry leader.
In early April, Russian steelmaker OAO Severstal and its South African partner, Iron Mineral Beneficiation Services Pty. Ltd. (IMBS) announced they were conducting a feasibility study for the construction of a $1-billion iron-ore processing plant in Sept-Îles that could create up to 500 new jobs in the area. The plant could produce up to two million tonnes of iron, with production beginning in 2014 at the earliest. The final decision will be based on results of the first commercial plant being built in Phalaborwa, South Africa, using a technology developed by IMBS using CO2 emissions to produce the energy. To help snag the deal, Lévesque led a delegation from Sept-Îles to attend an international mining conference in South Africa in February. There he met several potential investors and, last summer, began discussions with Severstal and IMBS.
“He’s doing quite a good job,” according to Sylvain Larivière, economic development adviser for Développement économique Sept-Îles, the economic development agency for the region. “He was instrumental in the negotiations with Severstal and in the new housing initiative that was recently launched.” The mayor was also a key player in creating a subsidized program to construct new rental housing units to reduce the dearth of rental accommodations for the region’s growing workforce. Sept-Îles has less than 1% of available rental space, says Larivière.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Canadian Business Magazine website: http://www.canadianbusiness.com/article/21728–miracle-on-the-st-lawrence