Former copper town banking on outdoor recreation to secure its future
Like many small communities that once dotted Quebec’s landscape, Murdochville was born a company town, built on the back of a mining boom.
Rich in copper ore, the mine was in operation for more than 50 years, an exceptionally long run compared to the average life span. But when the mining company pulled out more than a dozen years ago, the town’s economy crashed.
Now many believe the community’s future lies in another natural resource: the nature that surrounds the Gaspé Peninsula town.The mono-industry community has at least once been on the brink of becoming a ghost town.
It was served blow after blow when the open pit mine shut down, then the underground mine, and finally the smelter in 2002. In two referendums, a majority of unionized workers, then residents, voted to shut down the town. Those results scarred the towns history.
When Audrey Lévesque-Lecours, a high school human sciences teacher who has been living in Murdochville for five years, visits her family in Baie Comeau, people are surprised to learn the town still exists.
“There isn’t much publicity” she says. “And when we do hear about Murdochville, it’s always negative.”
To this day, many Quebecers believe the town was abandoned; however, it’s still home to about 725 people.
Murdochville’s working population is mostly employed either by the windmill industry or at a local call centre for the provincial automotive insurance board (SAAQ).
Lévesque-Lecours responds without hesitation when she’s asked where she thinks the future of the community’s economy lies: “plein air” or outdoor sports and recreation industry.
“We really have potential here,” she says.
Gaspesian with a dream
The town is surrounded by some of the highest mountains in Quebec, the Chic-Chocs, renowned for heavy snowfall.
The networks of lakes and rivers are popular for fly-fishing and hunting.
It’s the mountains that attracted Douglastown-born Guillaume Molaison and his partner Eloise Bourdon to Murdochville eight years ago.
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