THE IRON RANGES OF WESTERN LABRADOR: A CORNERSTONE OF ECONOMIC GROWTH AND A VAST RESOURCE FOR THE FUTURE

CIM Montreal 2011
John Clarke, Phillip Saunders,
Abstract Newfoundland and Labrador have been major producers of iron ore for over a century, first from the Bell Island deposits near St. John’s, and for the last 55 years from the iron ranges of western Labrador. In conjunction with adjacent Québec, this area is one of the world’s great iron ore districts, accounting for at least half of Canada's total production, and containing vast resources for future economic development. Iron ore is hosted within sedimentary rocks of the Paleoproterozoic New Québec Orogen (also known as the Labrador Trough) and their metamorphic equivalents in the parautochthon of the Grenville Province. Deposits fall into three main groups, namely “taconites” (primary sedimentary ores), supergene-enriched (direct-shipping) hematite ores, and metamorphic magnetite–hematite ores derived from taconite protoliths. Only the latter two deposit types have seen commercial production, in the Schefferville and Labrador City–Wabush areas, respectively. Western Labrador deposits have produced at least 1.3 billion tonnes of iron ore to date, and the potential resources amount to at least four times that amount. Current production comes from metamorphosed deposits at Labrador City and Wabush, but will soon resume in the Schefferville district. Two major undeveloped deposits in the Labrador City area are currently advanced exploration projects. The Julienne Lake deposit, originally discovered in the 1950s, is an exempt mineral land (EML) now under assessment by the Provincial Government; historical estimates suggest that it contains > 500 Mt at 35% Fe. The Alderon Resources Kamistiatusset (Kami) Project is evaluating substantial deposits of similar grade, and will soon release resource estimates upon which to base development plans. Significant undeveloped resources also remain within the Iron Ore Company of Canada mining leases. The largest iron ore resource in western Labrador remains in the primary taconite deposits near Schefferville, where resource estimates suggest as much as 5 billion tonnes at 29% Fe; these deposits extend into Québec, where a smaller (but still immense) resource is inferred. From a regional perspective, prospective sedimentary rocks of the Kaniapiskau Supergroup occur widely in more remote parts of western Labrador, and these areas are now seeing early-stage evaluation. Although exploration activity has grown rapidly since the dawn of the new millennium, it remains concentrated in areas of existing infrastructure, and the hinterland awaits systematic evaluation.
Keywords: Iron Ore, Proterozoic, Overview, Western Labrador
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