There’s an immense sense of pride at Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC). And from the company’s port at Sept-Îles to the mine and plant near Labrador City, it seems the feeling is infectious.

As a young boy, Robert Bellavance would watch his father leave home, with his lunch in hand, and head off to work at IOC.

“Then it was ‘the’ company, and today it’s ‘my’ company – where I work,” said Robert, who joined his father at IOC in 1992.

It’s a sentiment echoed by his colleague David Harris, who started at IOC in 1988, following in the footsteps of his maternal grandmother and father.

“I’m a third-generation employee, and in fact my son is working here at the moment as a summer student so there’s a fourth generation,” said David.

“I really feel a sense of ownership, I feel like this is my company.”

Here we meet the Preston/Harris and Bellavance families, as they reflect on their histories at IOC.

Meet the Preston/Harris family

Blanche Preston started working at IOC in Labrador City in 1985. She was soon joined by her grandson David Harris, who still works at IOC today.

I worked as a janitor and a tool crib attendant. I loved working at IOC, the workers I worked with were fantastic. We were like family,” said Blanche.

“When David my grandson went to work for the first day, I saw him coming and I ran and grabbed him and kissed him and hugged him with a crowd around – that was one happy occasion!”

David started at IOC in April 1988.

I remember the day that I had the job at IOC. I really remember picking up my stuff, and walking through the mall. I really thought I owned the world, it felt unbelievable to have the job,” said David.

“I’m currently the superintendent for technical training at IOC in Labrador City. I’m responsible for the coordination, tracking and reporting of all technical training including apprenticeships and health and safety training. I love it.”

Hear Dave describe how technology has changed training over the years at IOC:


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Left to right: Lester Harris (former IOC employee), David Harris (current IOC employee), David’s brother Paul Harris, David’s grandmother Blanche Preston (former IOC employee), David’s sister Krista Harris, and David’s mother Hazel Harris.

David also followed in the footsteps of his father Lester Harris, who started his career in 1965 as a labourer with IOC’s mill operations. By the time he retired in 1997, Lester was an industrial electrician.

“That was one of the impressive things I found with IOC, they were always encouraging the employees to move ahead and better themselves and move up within the company,” said Lester.

“We were given every opportunity to move on, so I didn’t stay in one job for too long, until I got into the electrical trade. Then there was something different every day. I was always learning at that job.

“There were quite a few changes…especially in the electrical department. Technology was changing all the time and we were constantly in training.”

From Canada to the world

From Canada
to the world

Iron is one of the most common elements on Earth, comprising about five per cent of the Earth’s crust. At IOC, we extract iron ore from beneath the surface rock, crush it and concentrate it.

Iron is one of the most common elements on Earth, comprising about five per cent of the Earth’s crust. At IOC, we extract iron ore from beneath the surface rock, crush it and concentrate it.

We can then either transform it into iron pellets suitable for use in blast furnaces, or transport it directly by rail to our deep-water port facility in Sept-Îles to be shipped to customers around the world.

Iron is the key ingredient in the production of steel, one of the most useful and durable products for modern living.

“It’s good to be at the start of the supply chain, we’re proud to be the first to create a product that will then create other things,” said Robert Bellavance.

“If we weren’t producing iron ore, there wouldn’t be buildings or railways.

“I love cars – so sometimes if I’m having a tough day, I like to remind myself that I could be creating part of a car.”

David Harris is also proud to play a vital role in the supply chain.

You might think I’m strange, but there have been times when I’ve looked at something that I knew was made of metal, and I’ve wondered quite often, if any of that material that’s right there came out of the ground that I was involved in processing somehow,” said David.

“I’ve often wondered where it all ended up and if any of it came back our way.”

I was very proud to join IOC, and to have a job in my field. I had an open mind and I felt very fortunate to be able to learn from the people around me who were well-qualified.

Robert Bellavance

Meet the Bellavance family

Sitting down for lunch with family is a time-honoured tradition across the world. The Bellavance family has taken it one step further – they have lunch together at work at IOC’s port facility in Sept-Îles.

Before Robert Bellavance’s father retired in 2002, they would enjoy their workday lunches together. Now Robert is carrying on that tradition with his son Anthony, who recently started working at IOC.

“I want IOC to stay profitable and be here for the long-term for my son to benefit from the company,” said Robert.

“I was very proud to join IOC, and to have a job in my field. I had an open mind and I felt very fortunate to be able to learn from the people around me who were well-qualified.”

Robert works as a mechanical maintainer at IOC’s port facility.

“My supervisor gives me work for the day, but it’s great because it’s different every day,” he said.

“Even though I know my role, it’s always a surprise when I arrive. It can depend on the weather – sometimes we work inside, sometimes outside.

“For example in summer … when I work on the dock, I can see whales! But in the winter it’s very cold!

“What I love most is when my supervisor identifies a problem with the equipment and I’m the one who has to find a solution.”

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Robert Bellavance and his son Anthony Bellavance work at IOC’s port at Sept-Îles

Although Robert said that many things have changed at IOC since he first started, the dedication to teamwork has remained the same.

“Lots of things have changed. Safety first of all; it is more critical and essential,” he said.

“I love the teamwork and the people in my team are really conscientious of the work we need to do.”

Robert’s son Anthony recently finished his welding qualifications and is one of IOC’s newest student recruits at Sept-Îles.

“I also saw my dad leave our family home every day with his lunch. I heard lots of stories from my dad about working at IOC and I was inspired to join as well,” he said.

“One of the best things about working at IOC is being able to work outside with my hands – I really enjoy that. I always have a big smile on my face because I’m doing something I love.

“It’s funny working at the same company as dad, I get to see another side to him.

“Sometimes dad will try to say something to me [as a son], but his workmates will pull him up on it. I almost feel a bit protected by them!”

The legacy of a lunchbox

The legacy of
a lunchbox

Gibbs Levert feels an immense sense of pride when he sees the aluminium lunchbox that bears his grandfather’s name.

Gibbs Levert feels an immense sense of pride when he sees the aluminium lunchbox that bears his grandfather’s name.

Gibbs, a senior human resources adviser at our Alma aluminium smelter in the Lac Saint-Jean region of Quebec, is another Rio Tinto employee who’s continuing a family legacy at our Canadian operations.

Gibbs’s grandfather Lucien Néron devoted 40 years of his life working as a laboratory technician with Alcan – which was acquired by Rio Tinto in 2007. When Lucien retired, he hoped to see one of his children or grandchildren follow in his footsteps with the company.

Fulfilling his grandfather’s wish

After completing his studies in Quebec City and working in Montreal, Gibbs found himself back home in the Saguenay region, thanks to a job opening in human resources with Rio Tinto. He started working at the Arvida smelter in 2008.

“When my grandfather heard that I’d been hired, he asked me to stop by and see him. He seemed to have something to tell me,” said Gibbs.

When Gibbs got there, his grandfather asked him to go down to the basement with him. In a corner, he pointed to his “treasures” – three old lunchboxes, now covered in dust, which were waiting patiently for someone to use them again.

Like most of his colleagues at the time, Lucien would carry his lunch to work in an aluminium lunchbox with a leather handle. Back in those days, the lunchboxes were given to employees by the company.

“My grandfather was like a father to me,” said Gibbs. “And seeing him like that, brimming with pride, was heart-warming.”

So Gibbs left his grandfather’s house with a leather-handled aluminium box in his hand and a promise to continue his grandfather’s legacy.

Gibbs’s grandfather Lucien passed away in 2011. Gibbs is proud to own his lunchbox and to carry on his family’s legacy in the aluminium industry. He hopes that one day he can pass on the feeling of pride, and the lunchbox, to his daughter or one of his grandchildren.