[Labrador Iron Trough] The Legacy Of The Rail Lives On, But Could It Be Built Today? – by Donna Yoshimatsu (Canadian Mining Journal – June/July 2009)

http://www.canadianminingjournal.com/

History is witness that the people who built the foundation for Canada’s iron ore industry back in 1950 faced near insurmountable odds that would have stymied even the most ambitious industrialist today.

History is witness that the people who built the foundation for Canada’s iron ore industry back in 1950 faced near insurmountable odds that would have stymied even the most ambitious industrialist today.

Among the likes of Timmins, Hollinger, Humphrey, movers and shakers of mining empires, sprung generations of entrepreneurs in search of a piece of history, drawn to the biggest railroad building project the continent had seen in half a century — the Quebec North Shore & Labrador Railway (QNS&L).

But can we say with unequivocal certainty that, given the same set of circumstances and pioneering drive today, these great visionaries could have replicated the successful execution of a $300-million railway project (1950 dollars) to transport the ore to tidewater 350 miles away?

Even then, in George Humphrey’s estimation, formidable President of M. A. Hanna and solicited by Jules Timmins to fund the project, it would take the discovery of Witwatersrand proportions to justify the cost to get the ore out of such rugged wilderness terrain.

It goes without saying then, that faced with today’s multi-level environmental and regulatory considerations, the railroad that linked the town later known as Schefferville with the shipping terminal facilities at what would become the largest seaport on the eastern seaboard of Sept-Iles, would be a non-starter.

As it so happened, on his first visit to the interior of Quebec/Newfoundland known as the Labrador Trough, Humphrey locked eyes on what A. P. Low in 1893 had described as a ‘spectacular natural face of iron ore outcropping at the north end of Ruth Lake #3, the unmistakable bluish-grey hematite outcrops containing up to 69.7% iron.

The tonnage implications of a 90-mile long, northwest trending zone was feasible by open-pit. Field programs subsequently uncovered numerous iron ore occurrences totalling over 400 million tons, the grade considerably higher than the average grade of ore produced at Minnesota’s famed Mesabi Range.

A railway project so grand as to resemble Canadian Pacific’s routing through the Rockies 60 years earlier was ambitious. The race was on — “Iron Ore by ’54” was the new creed and for everyone involved; a force more compelling than a gold rush.

Like the pyramids of Egypt, timeless reminders of man’s loftiest achievements, the railroad was assembled spike by spike, all-consuming, awe-inspiring. Back then it was only a question of cost and logistics, the natural barriers an ever-constant reminder — mountains of solid rock requiring at times half mile long tunnels, 19 bridges some 700 ft long and 155 ft high over rapids, 2 hydro generation plants and a 44,000 volt power transmission line — all justified by the immense potential of the ore bodies.

For the rest of this article, click here: http://www.canadianminingjournal.com/features/the-legacy-of-the-rail-lives-on-but-could-it-be-built-today/

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