Extractive Industry in the Atlantic Subarctic

John Thistle
Labrador Institute of Memorial University

Extractive Industry in the Atlantic Subarctic: Toward an Environmental History of Contemporary Labrador

Although it is generally acknowledged that large-scale resource extraction projects drove the ‘development’ and ‘modernization’ of Labrador communities and landscapes during the twentieth century, in fact we know very little about the precise effects of these projects in particular contexts, or their cumulative effects over time. How did the rise of iron ore mining along the Quebec-Labrador border, and the development of hydroelectric power at Churchill Falls affect preindustrial economies focused on hunting, fishing and other forms of non-industrial land use? What were the long-term ‘costs’ and ‘benefits’ of mineral and river development in Labrador? And how might a fuller historical and geographical accounting of these costs and benefits – one that counts as important such things as cultural diversity, social justice, economic equity, and environmental protection – inform our understanding, not just of resource development projects in the past, but also those in the present? In seeking answers to these questions this paper explores and seeks to integrate new conceptual frameworks for Canadian environmental history, in particular those from resource geography and postcolonial science studies.