The Stornoway Diamond Corporation has moved yet another step closer to opening the Renard Diamond Mine, the first of its kind in Quebec.

Matt Manson, the President and CEO of Stornoway, announced on August 30 that the company had successfully completed the public hearings held by COMEX, the review committee established under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, in both Mistissini and Chibougamau.

Speaking on behalf of Stornoway, Vice-President of Public Affairs Ghislain Poirier described the hearing as an important step on the way to officially setting up shop in the Otish Mountains, north of Mistissini.

“In principle, this is the final phase of public consultations at the provincial level,” he said. “These hearings will allow COMEX to determine that the project is socially acceptable.”

Although the hearings were an important step in the overall process, Poirier was confident that Stornoway had gone above and beyond to ensure that the project would be embraced by local communities, specifically the Cree community of Mistissini.

He referred to the Mecheshoo agreement, signed in March, in which Stornoway pledged that 50% of the Renard Diamond Mine’s workforce would be made up of Crees from Mistissini.

“We worked hard,” he said. “What the Mecheshoo agreement shows, is that we are well aware of the aspirations of the community. We understand their needs and their expectations of the project.

“I’m pleased to say that we didn’t negotiate an agreement with them, but we built an agreement with them,” he said.

Poirier also explained that Stornoway is completely committed to ensuring the transparency of the Renard project, in order to demonstrate to the local Cree community that the company is mindful of their interests.

“We submitted our environmental and social study last December,” he said. “And all of this was made public, including the restoration plan. All of it is on our website. We weren’t obligated to do it, but we wanted to be transparent.”

The completion of the public hearings is yet another sign that the Renard project is progressing smoothly. Poirier explained that the hearings were some of the final steps in long process.

“What we’re waiting for is the certificate of authorization, which we should get by the end of the year,” he said. “That’s really the key that will allow us to start building the mine.”

Earlier this summer, Stornoway announced that it was moving its head office from Northern B.C. to the Montreal area, demonstrating the importance of their operations in Quebec and their confidence in the Renard project.

Speaking at a press conference in June, Manson said the project will bring $800 million worth of investment and create 450 to 500 jobs. At the time, Stornoway had also pledged to try and involve members of the Cree community into the management side of the company. Vice-President Patrick Godin explained that the company plans to have specific training and promotion plans for Cree workers wanting to advance within the organization.

Aside from the value of the public hearings, Poirier also commented on the recent changes in the provincial government, and said he doesn’t foresee any major problems that this may cause.

“We are facing an administrative process, and not a political process,” he said. “The two are completely detached from one another.”

The Renard Diamond Mine is expected to have a mine-life of at least 11 years. According to Stornoway, 99% of the diamonds mined at the site are expected to be of gem quality, meaning they are suitable for jewelry. Over its lifetime, the project is expected to yield just over $4 billion worth of diamonds.