SEPT-ÎLES, QUE. — At the corrugated-iron-walled congress centre in this northeastern Quebec city on a snowy late-November day, organizers of a chamber of commerce luncheon are turning away late arrivals.
They’ve run out of extra seating for members of the business community who have crowded into a dining hall decked out in Christmas cheer. But they’re not here for merriment. They’ve come to a presentation by Luc Dion, president of Sept-Îles’ economic development committee, about the region’s economy.
The gift many were hoping for ahead of the festive season was some relief from the economic crisis that has been grinding deeper into the region for the last several years, since iron ore prices fell from a high of nearly US$190 a tonne in early 2011 to a low of US$37 mid-December.
But Dion’s message was not about optimism as much as it was about trying to put Sept-Îles problems in a global perspective. “I can’t say that it’s not worrying, but I wanted to show this is happening on an international scale, so it’s not about just our region, and we have to adapt,” Dion said in an interview afterward.
“However, at our core, we can’t really do anything else because we are on a land of natural resources. Our history is based on natural resources, whether it is fishing, forestry, mines, hydroelectric, aluminum — or iron ore.”
Sept-Îles lies on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River in eastern Quebec, just where it begins to widen out to the Gulf. The iron ore arrives by train after being mined in the Labrador Trough and is loaded onto ships for export, mostly to the U.S. and Europe.
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