Newfoundland & Labrador (formerly just "Newfoundland") is Canada's most easterly province, and is in the northeast corner of North America, facing the North Atlantic. The province consists of two distinct geographical entities, the island of Newfoundland and Labrador, which is located on the mainland bordering Quebec. The province has a total area of 405,720 square kilometres, with a coastline of over 17,000 kilometres.
The central region of the island of Newfoundland was the home of the Beothuk Indians. The first Europeans to visit Newfoundland were Vikings, who arrived in the late tenth century. In the 1500s Europeans "discovered" the area and began fishing in the Grand Banks south of the island, including the Basques, Portuguese, Spanish, British and French. Colonial warfare lasted through the 1600s and 1680s until the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which gave British control over Newfoundland and the fishing banks. In 1832, the people of Newfoundland were granted an elected assembly and its own responsible government in 1855. Following World War II, Newfoundland's status as a British colony was th subject of several referenda until 1948, when Newfoundlanders voted in favour of joining the Canadian confederation. Newfoundland became Canada's newest province on March 31, 1949.
The province has a population of 551,000, of which 174,000 live in St. John's, the historic commercial centre and capital of the island. Other major centres are Grand Falls, Windsor and Corner Brook.
Since its first settlement, Newfoundland & Labrador has been highly dependent on its resource sector. The province was initially settled because of its rich fishing grounds on the Grand Banks. The mainstay of the province's fishing industry has been groundfish (primarily cod); however, other important catches are flounder, redfish, capelin, shrimp and crab. In 1977, the Canadian government extended its fishery jurisdiction to 200 miles off the coast, but in 1989 scientific studies revealed the Atlantic's cod stocks were in severe decline, causing a fishing moratorium in certain species.
The second prominent industry of the provincial economy is mining & petroleum. The mining industry is worth $680 million a year, mostly iron ore from Labrador, but also gold, asbestos, limestone and gypsum. In 1994, a major discovery of nickel, copper and cobalt was made at Voisey Bay and is now begining development. The 1979 discovery of offshore oil and gas reserves at Hibernia has added a new dimension to the marine resources of the province, with reserves are estimated at 615 million barrels. Recently completed, Hibernia was the largest construction project in North America, and the field is just beginning prouction.
About half of the province's manufacturing gross domestic product comes from other resource- and non-resource-based manufacturing. The newsprint industry is significant with three pulp and paper mills located in Corner Brook, Grand Falls and Stephenville, which have been rationalized and modernized in the past decade. Numerous companies are engaged in the manufacture of items such as boats, lumber, chemical and oil-based products, food and beverages, clothing and footwear. In total, the province shipped about $1.4 billion in manufactured products in 1992.
The province's largest utility industry is electric power. The largest hydroelectric facility is located in Churchill Falls, Labrador, with a total installed capacity of 5403 megawatts. Much of this power is exported to the US via Quebec.
In recent years, Newfoundland's efforts to develop a solid tourism industry have intensified. The province's rich cultural and historical heritage and unique character are considered to be major selling features to other Canadians and travellers from around the world. It is estimated that between 265,000 and 300,000 people visit the province each year, spending an estimated $400 million annually.