In December 2014, financially strapped Cliffs Natural Resources announced the closure of its Bloom Lake iron mine – putting some 600 miners out of work and casting a dark cloud over the nearby town of Fermont, Que, located near the Quebec-Labrador border some 400 km north of Sept-Iles.
But one year later, the town’s fortunes took a turn for the better. Quebec Iron Ore (QIO), a subsidiary of Montreal-based Champion Iron, bought the mine, a railway spur line and dozens of mineral claims for the rock bottom price of $10.5 million.
By February of this year, QIO put Bloom Lake back into production – and 450 miners back to work – thanks in no small part to direct and indirect support from the Quebec government under its Plan Nord initiative.
The Quebec government made a direct investment of $50 million in Bloom Lake – giving it a 37.2% stake in a joint venture partnership with Champion. As well, the Caisse de dépôt loaned the company $100 million to get the mine and mill up and running. Then the government acquired Cliffs’ Pointe Noire port facility and infrastructure in the municipality of Sept-Îles and QIO became a limited partner in the corporation set up to manage and develop the port.
“We have a great partnership with the Quebec government,” says Michael O’Keefe, president and CEO of Champion. “I’ve worked closely with the people at Plan Nord.”
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