Area in northeastern Canada, part of the province of Newfoundland, lying between Ungava Bay on the northwest, the Atlantic Ocean on the east, and the Strait of Belle Isle on the southeast; area 266,060 sq km/102,730 sq mi; population (2001 est) 27,900. The most easterly part of the North American mainland, Labrador consists primarily of a gently sloping plateau with an irregular coastline of numerous bays, fjords, inlets, and cliffs (60–120 m/200–400 ft high). Its industries include fisheries, timber and pulp, and the mining of various minerals, especially iron ore. Hydroelectric resources include Churchill Falls, where one of the world's largest underground power houses is situated (opened in 1971). There is a Canadian Air Force base at Goose Bay on Lake Melville. Many of the small coastal settlements are inhabited primarily by aboriginal groups.
The region includes much of northern Québec and the mainland area of Newfoundland. The greater part of the peninsula, the territory of Ungava, was annexed by Québec in 1912. In 1927, in a dispute over the boundary between Québec and Newfoundland, the British Privy Council ruled in favour of Newfoundland. The accession of Newfoundland to the dominion of Canada in 1949 automatically made Labrador part of the Canadian confederation. Intensive development began here in 1954, and a railway (587 km/364 mi long) was built from the new iron-mining town of Schefferville, Québec (on the Québec–Labrador boundary), to Sept Iles, Québec. The other main development was in the Wabush Lake area further south, where the new towns of Wabush City and Labrador City, Newfoundland, are situated. The large-scale exploitation of nickel reserves at Voisey's Bay has been environmentally controversial.
Labrador, regarded as part of Vinland, was probably visited by the Vikings in the 10th or 11th centuries; traces of their stone houses and tombs have been found on the Labrador coast. The explorer Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) is supposed to have visited here in 1498, and Cortereal, the Portuguese navigator, in 1510; Jacques Cartier came here some 40 years later in search of the Northwest Passage. Labrador then fell under French rule, but the peninsula was ceded to England in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris. Moravians established missions here in the early 19th century.