Moving Forward

IOC’s Wabush 3 project approved for development

Ty Dunham
Published on September 16, 2015

The Iron Ore Company of Canada in Labrador City received the long awaited approval for the Wabush 3 open mining pit development.

©Ty Dunham

The Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) has received approval for the expansion of the Wabush 3 pit.

The Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) has received approval for the expansion of the Wabush 3 pit.
The provincial government gave the green light to the environmental assessment last week, giving company the go-ahead on a critical project that will provide sustainability over the amount of ore that goes to the plant to meet the rate of production.

Marsha Power Slade, senior adviser for external relations and corporate affairs for IOC, said while IOC started focusing on the project 2 1/2 years ago, discussions on the expansion began five to seven years ago.

She added the additional pit would allow for greater ore flexibility due to its low strip ratio.

“That means we can blend ores as needed for our clients, and have the available ore,” she explained. “(That) means we have less waste to move, which takes up costs and people and time. We’ll have more efficiencies.”

The new development brings optimism during a difficult time for Labrador west, which saw layoffs at IOC and the shutdown of Wabush Mines in the past two years. However, Slade said with the low iron ore prices, there’s no guarantee the company is safe from further cost reduction measures.

“It’s a challenging time, one of the most challenging years for IOC, said Slade. “I couldn’t say that anything, Wabush 3 in particular, would save IOC.”

The company will continue to focus on safety and production in the volatile market, she added.

“Wabush 3 is something we’ve taken a lot of time and effort into. While it’s one of the most challenging years we’ve had, it is about sustainability into the future. But nothing is guaranteed.”

IOC predicts Wabush 3 will extend the life of the mine by 12 years, from 2067 to 2079. Slade said while a feasibility study is underway to determine the final costs of the project, the total cost is expected to be around $75 million.

Approximately $10 million to $15 million of those costs will go to mitigations for local stakeholders, including Smokey Mountain Ski Lodge, Menihek Nordic Ski Club, and the Whitewolf Snowmobile Club.

IOC engaged with a consultant to redesign Smokey Mountain to optimize the use of the hill, adjusting some aspects of the lifts to coexist with the pit. The chair lifts will be also replaced.

Menihek has been working with the company on a new section of cross-country trails, and a small section of Whitewolf’s snowmobile trails will be realigned from outside the 1,200-metre blast zone.

Angel Falls, a popular waterfall spectacle on a Menihek trail, will also be maintained, Slade said.

“There will be some natural pieces of it and some aspects will be maintaining the flow over Angel Falls,” she noted. “It was an important aspect for all groups we spoke with and wanted to ensure it would be maintained.”

Access to Smokey Mountain will be blocked on blast days, currently anticipated twice a month. The lodge will be closed Monday to Friday. Whitewolf will have full access to their trails, and the upper portions of Menihek’s trails will be closed on blast days.

“As we progress we’ll be notifying the community, letting them know the processes will be.”


It’s a challenging time, one of the most challenging years for IOC. I couldn’t say that anything, Wabush 3 in particular, would save IOC. Marsha Power Slade

‘Great opportunity’

Derrick Dalley, minister of natural resources, said in a recent news release the provincial government looks forward to the development, and called it a great opportunity for Labrador.

“We are optimistic that in the long term the combination of high quality iron ore resources, stable and dependable regulation and taxation, and low cost power will continue to sustain the iron ore industry and communities in Labrador.”

Nick McGrath, MHA for Labrador west, agreed.

“This project will strengthen a straining economy, and will provide security, sustainability and job opportunities for the residents of Labrador West,” McGrath said.

The project is estimated to generate over 2,400 person months of employment during the construction phase and will involve a variety of jobs of different durations, made up of a mix of contractors, sub-contractors and existing IOC personnel.

It will consist of an open pit containing 744 million tonnes of iron ore, an overburden storage area, a waste rock disposal pile, haulage roads, a pole line, a groundwater extraction system and a mine water collection, treatment and disposal system.

A copy of the Environmental Assessment Bulletin regarding the Wabush 3 Open Pit Mine Project is available at