A resurgent Labrador is about to bounce back, says MHA

There's a growing consensus that the economic funk that has tainted life in Labrador West these past few years is finally in the past, and no one is happier than MHA Graham Letto.

Graham Letto says iron ore one of many positive signs that an upturn is on the way

Labrador West MHA Graham Letto, centre, is flanked by Labrador City Mayor Wayne Button, left, and Wabush Mayor Ron Barron. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

There's a growing consensus that the economic funk that has tainted life in Labrador West these past few years is finally in the past, and no one is happier than Labrador West MHA Graham Letto.

"I do believe that we have turned a corner," Letto said following a very upbeat speech Friday night in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Letto is the parliamentary assistant to Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady, and he was in his element as he addressed members of the Combined Councils of Labrador, who were gathered for their annual meeting.

A long list of potential

Unlike these past three or four years, Letto had plenty of positive things to say, listing the great potential in oil and gas off Labrador's coast, an expansion at the Voisey's Bay mine, the search for rare earth minerals, and even the prospect of gold discoveries.

But iron ore has been the backbone of Labrador for 60 years, and Letto says it will be for a long time to come.

There's growing evidence to suggest he is right. 

Rio Tinto's Iron Ore Company of Canada operation in Labrador City is expanding, and is expected to start mining from its new Wabush 3 deposit later this year. It's an $80-million investment that's expected to prolong the life of the mining operation until about 2079.

Tacara Resources is making plans to reopen neighbouring Wabush Mines, which was closed by the previous owner during the low point of a market meltdown in 2014, casting a dark cloud over the entire region.

This 2015 file photo of Wabush Mines captures a scene of inactivity and what appeared to be hopelessness. But a new company, Tacora Resources, is making plans to reopen the iron ore mine. (CBC)
Letto said Tacora has completed its permitting process, is raising the necessary capital needed to reactivate the site, and he predicts activity to begin later this year.

Letto says he doesn't expect job numbers to match previous employment figures of roughly 400, but he's expecting about half or more of that number.

He said it's a welcome development as the Muskrat Falls construction site in Central Labrador begins to wind down, noting that many workers displaced by the closure of Wabush Mines have found employment at the hydroelectric project.

The fact that they're back in the picture and they see an opportunity there, it's all positive.- Graham Letto

And third, Letto said Alderon Iron Ore Corp. is once again in talks with government to develop its highly touted Kami mine project in Labrador West.

Letto said it's not a done deal, and the company is still trying the raise the capital needed to move forward.

"[But] the fact that they're back in the picture and they see an opportunity there, it's all positive."

Letto said the future is very bright for Labrador.

"We've only tapped the surface."