You are here

A River Creates an Industry : The Saguenay River Aluminum Production in Canada

Accession number: 
Production Years: 


Film Properties: 
Length (feet): 
636 (16mm)
Length (minutes): 
Holding Institutions: 

Library and Archives Canada: 16mm.
"An overview of the hydroelectric projects located along the Saguenay River flowing from Lake St. John and running off the St. Lawrence, and the aluminum produced using the electricity created at these power-houses. The film begins with the history of the river from the days of explorers and fur traders using the Saguenay as a highway, to the arrival of pulp and paper mills fed by the forests along its shore. The discovery of the mineral 'bauxite', the raw material from which aluminum is extracted, in African mines influenced the history of the river. Scientists found a way to separate the metal from bauxite by chemically processing it, a procedure requiring great quantities of electricity. Water was considered the cheapest source of power and the river was dammed to store and control it. The first power-house built on the Saguenay was at Isle Maligne and had a capacity of 540,000 horsepower. Next were the two dams of the Shipshaw Development 40 miles down the river. By 1953 the last of the installations was completed providing a total capacity of more than 2.5 million horsepower. The largest smelter in the world at the time was at Arvida, linked by 20 miles of rail and road to Port Alfred. Each day the smelter at Arvida produces two million pounds of aluminum. The following quotes illustrate the tone and attitude of this film, likely reflecting the times and the views of the sponsor, towards nature. 'Where once were only rocks and wilderness, the great concrete structures now add their own distinctive style and character to the age-old face of the valley.', and 'This then is the wealth of the Saguenay... Now the surging river is controlled. Transformers rise where once tall trees were felled. Great smelters and a modern city stand where once was wilderness... The destiny of a valley and its people has been fulfilled ... a river has created an industry.'"


“A River Creates an Industry,” Alcan 16mm Film Catalogue (Montreal: Aluminum Company of Canada, Limited: c.1960), 19.

“This Alcan presentation traces the development of the Saguenay River Valley in Quebec during the 50-year period following first hydro-electric power installations. The main steps in the production of aluminum are shown, from bauxite mine to smelter, and there is a brief sequence on research in the company’s laboratories, where improvements in the metal are constantly sought.
Running Time: 15 mins.
T.V. Short – 13 ½ mins., Black and White.”