Declining industry and a departing population have some Bathurst, N.B., residents fearing their city has a dim future.

"It's probably going to end up being a retirement community, unfortunately. There are no young people staying around. It's tough to get them in here — it's tough to get them to stay here. There's no jobs," says John Furey.

He was one of the last people laid off by Brunswick Mine. Spanish mining giant Xstrata Zinc officially closed the Brunswick Mine just south of Bathurst last week.

The mine was northern New Brunswick's largest private sector employer. The unemployment rate for the region is over 20 per cent.

'All of our young people — are they just going to move away?'  —Cindy Friolet

There are remnants of lost industry in Bathurst like the old Smurfit Stone paper mill that closed suddenly in 2005. But the downtown is active and in the heart of the city, a new hotel is going up in advance of the summer tourist season.

At the Bathurst Aquatic Centre Thursday evening, the Piranhas, the city's swim team, was training. Jillian Friolet, 14, swam laps, while in the stands her mother Cindy watched and wondered about the kind of future awaiting young people in northern New Brunswick.

"It's worrisome. All our young people — are they just going to move away? Or are they just ... it's really hard to say," she said.

Last month, Bathurst mayor Stephen Brunet hosted a celebration of Brunswick Mine's enormous contribution to the city. The ceremony culminated in the unveiling of a mural dedicated to its memory.

When it closed, it took roughly 1,000 jobs with it. More than 7,000 people worked at it over the last 49 years.

"I'm scared. I think some of the hard feelings of the mine being gone will happen maybe in about a year's time," said retired miner Gregory Gammon. "We do need something to have some jobs for some people, so they don't have to go away the way they are now."

He is also worried the true consequences of the closure won't be felt on the street and in local stores for a number of months.

From mines to German armoured vehicles

Bathurst-based Industrial Rubber relied heavily on Brunswick Mine as its major client. Losing the company caused a major rethink, said president Barry Kyle.

"It forced a lot of companies to go afield or change their strategy of how they're going to stay alive up here," he said.

Brunswick Mine gave him a five-year warning. "We diversified our company from being a supplier of rubber-coated products to one now involved in manufacturing mobile equipment [and] supplying of offshore oil and gas supplies."

Industrial Rubber opened similar plants in St. John's and Wabush, N.L.

The company caters to clients in a variety of fields, including defence, mining, and pulp and paper.

It also recently landed a major contract to make armoured vehicles for the German company FFG. The first vehicle is due in two years.

"To get a German manufacturer to come to Canada is great. To get them to come to New Brunswick is fantastic. To get them to come to Bathurst, that's a homerun for this area," said Kyle.

Industrial Rubber currently employs 26 people and may add 35 more jobs in the coming years.

Kyle says he could relocate his business, but loves Bathurst too much to leave.

Diamonds for 'fly-out boys'

Todd Hussey used to work in the local mines, but now commutes to the Northwest Territories. He is one of the "fly-out boys" who mines diamonds up north. He had never flown before, but now regularly flies to his job. It's a two-day journey.

He works two weeks straight, and then comes home for two weeks. 

Hussey has a wife and young family in Bathurst. He said the commute is hard, but the rewards of keeping his family in Bathurst are worth it.

"When I come home off the plane, the oldest one comes running to me right away and almost knocks me down, she's so happy to see me," he said. "This is home."

CBC will host a live chat on the northern economy from Bathurst Thursday starting at 5 p.m.